Quote for Today - December 15, 2012 "To whom can I speak today? Gentleness has perished And the violent man has come down on everyone." From, The Man Who Was Tired of Life, c. 1990 B.C., translated by R. O. Faulkner
The title of my homily is, “Either Or - Light or Darkness”.
That’s the thought that hit me this morning - when working
on a homily for the Feast of St. John of the Cross - today December 14th.
Some people don’t like “Either Or’s”. They like one’s. They
like singular answers. Some people like variations. There’s more than one way
to skin a fox. There are options.
We have a family story. We were in a restaurant with my mom
somewhere along the line and she ordered salad and the waitress asked, “Blue
Cheese, Vinaigrette, Russian, or ThousandIsland?” And she said,
It didn’t make any difference to her. She would put on her
salad whatever dressing she pulled out of the refrigerator at home - or put two
or three on - depending on the amount left in the bottle or what have you.
JOHN OF THE CROSS
John of the Cross preferred the Apophatic Approach to God -
that is the removal of all images. There’s a whole tradition in spirituality
about this approach. The opposite is the way of light - the way of images - the
way of pictures. It’s called the Kataphatic Approach.
So John of the Cross wrote about the Dark Night of the
Senses and the Dark Night of the Soul.
Either Or or Both And can bring us to God.
Sometimes we experience God when looking at a great sunrise
Sometimes we experience God in the deep dark of the night. You
might have heard the often quoted words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “In a real dark
night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.”
Sometimes when we can’t sleep, we turn to God.
Sometimes people only experience God or come to a God awareness moment when
they lose everything - and they are in the dark about what’s next. A spouse
dies. A spouse leaves for a younger partner. Kids go haywire. A home is lost in
a storm or fire. Someone is fired.
Sometimes we experience God in the midst of light - and joy
- and celebration. I was just sitting there at Thanksgiving in this big, big
room that had all kinds of sections. I was off to the side - before the big
dinner - and there were about 30 people in that big, big room, laughing,
playing cards, playing Boggle, playing Scrabble, - all in different areas. A
few were just talking. There was
laughter and joy everywhere. I was thinking: all these people are here because my
brother met and fell in love with Joanne, my sister-in-law. Thank You God.
Either - Or - we can meet God.
Good Friday is good - so too Easter - so too Christmas - so too Advent. CONCLUSION
In today’s gospel - Matthew 11: 16-19 - Jesus goes after the Pharisees. They are not
happy whatever Jesus does. If he would call for fasting like John the Baptist
or if he was having a great meal, either way they would be unhappy. They are
like kids in the market place. You sing a sad song, someone complains. You sing
a joyful song, someone complains.
Life is morning and night, the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and
light bearing mysteries. Someday when I’m made pope, maybe I’ll propose that we have the dark bearing mysteries as well?
Pictures and Paintings
On top: Interior of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain - 2011.
Near Bottom: Drawing by John of the Cross of the Crucifixion and then the famous Corpus Hypercubus  by Salvador Dali - inspired by the drawing by John of the Cross.
Somewhere along the line kids start asking questions.
Listen to kids and you’ll be listening to questions: “How
come?” or “Why?” or “When?”
Look at the faces of babies. They hear a noise, They turn
towards where the sound comes from. At
what point, long before words, does the baby’s face say, “What is that?” or
“What was that?” or “Who are you?” Babies squint. Babies make faces - sometimes
in the shape of a question mark. Babies seem to be asking questions long before
they can talk. “When are we going to eat?” “When are you going to notice
me?” “When are you going to hold me?”
Listen to little kids as they start to grow. You’ll here
more specific questions like: “How come she gets to stay up later than me and I
got to go to bed?” “How come he gets a bigger piece of the pie than the piece I
Is the most basic question: “How come life is unfair at
Sometimes we get answers to our questions.
Sometimes we continue with the same basic questions all our
Sometimes we come up with new questions?
“How come she gets all the attention?”
“How come the rich get richer?”
"How come there is suffering?"
“How come he or she doesn’t see the way I see?”
“How could so and so be a Democrat and so and so be a Republican?”
“After all I did for you, how could you do that to me?”
“Why do people stop listening to what I have to say?
“Why do people walk away from me?
“Is everyone down deep lonely?”
“When am I going to die?”
“Will I ever accomplish anything?”
“Will I ever finish something?”
“What difference does it make?”
“What difference will I make?”
“How much does it cost?”
"Does everyone have lifetime questions?"
"If they do, are they aware of them?"
"Does anyone else ask this question or questions along this line?"
One of my lifetime questions is: “Motive?”
I’ve been asking that question ever since I was a little
Then I go through my basic list of possible motives on why so
and so did so and so or say what they said? Why? Why? Why?
What are the basic motives?
Is this a good list of basic motives: Fear? Shame?
Ashamed? “That’s why I lied. I was
ashamed.” Insecurity? Security?
Hunger? Love? Attachment? Addiction? Guilt? Selfishness? Me. Myself. And I. I put
myself first every time. Greed? Lust? Pride? Laziness?
When I’m watching NCIS or a detective show on TV or the
movies, I’m asking what the investigators or the detectives are asking,
“Motive?” Once we establish a motive or possible motives, we start looking for
people who could have that motive.
"What does it profit a person, if they gain the whole world,
and suffer the loss of their soul?”
Great question by Jesus.
So motive has always been one of my lifetime questions.
So maybe that’s why I loved the moment in a college
philosophy class that I was taking and
the professor was talking about Existentialism and he said, “I’m writing on the
board the world’s shortest poem. It’s two words and they rhyme:
never forgotten that. It’s a life time question. And I used it many times in
sermons like this.
And I wrote the world’s second shortest poem. It also
“I / Why” “You / Who” are two lifetime questions - that
everyone asks all their life. We want to know who we are. Why do I exist. What am I to do with my life? We also want to know who the other people are in our
life: friends, dates, teammates, family?
What are your life time questions?
This question was triggered by another one of my regular lifetime
When you go into a Catholic Church like this one, you always find at least one statue or
picture of Mary the Mother of Jesus. Why? We have the statue of Mary up there
above the tabernacle - above the center of the old altar. If you were a
Buddhist or Taoist or Confucian and you were never in a Catholic Church before,
would you want to know what that statue represents?
Every Catholic Church usually has one image of Mary. We have 2 - the one
above the old altar and the one off to the side there - over there - Our Mother
of Perpetual Help. What is that all about?
If you went into a Protestant Christian Church - other than
Anglican - you most likely wouldn’t find such images of Mary. Why? Why not?
And this church and this parish is called, “St.
Mary’s.” And all the stained glass
windows up there show images of this woman. “Why?” “What is that all
about?” “Motive?” “You / Who?”
I’ve been asking that question for some 65 years now. It
started when I was an altar boy as a kid. I’d see people praying at shrines and
statues and images of Mary. Why? When I was a kid I used to also be a candle boy at
our church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
People would come into church, light a candle drop a coin into the box and move
on. Why? Motive?
I’ve heard lots of answers. Lighting a candle is a prayer that stays here
burning for me after I’m gone. It’s a tiny sacrifice. I put my money in. The
candle burns - disappears to itself - giving some light - as it dies.
I particularly thought of this question of Lifetime
Questions this morning - because today the Catholic Church - especially in Mexico and the United States, and other countries of the Americas celebrate the feast
of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Why the following? What’s that all about? Why are there other churches and shrines all around
the world dedicated to Mary: Lourdes, Fatima, Czestochowa, Chartres,
Medjujorje, and Guadalupe?
What is that behavior, that energy about?
I’ve been asking that question all my life.
One answer is that God is concerned with women and children
- two people who are often treated up till the last century as nothing. Mary and her baby Jesus are often sculpted together - and we come and pray with and for all mothers and all their children.
Another answer is that mothers are central to life. All through our lives they represent security and home - and so we come to church for a feeling of security and home.
I love the definition of home: “the place where they have to take
Does Mary represent God - who takes us in?
Do mothers represent God - who takes us in?
Do we all need all our lives - the comforting presence of
our Mothers - living and dead - as well as the womb of a church?
Does Mary represent that God welcomes all people -
especially the little person - like Juan Diego - as well as all native people? Amen.
[This was a question type homily I preached this morning to St. Mary's High School - December 12, 2012]
The title of my homily for this 2nd Tuesday in
Advent is, “Lost Sheep: The Little Ones
on the Planet.”
One of the recommendations for Advent is that we do some
Advent Spiritual Reading. So we have those blue books in the back of church the past few
years and some other Advent pamphlets. People take them and people give feedback
saying they appreciate them.
Just at the beginning of Advent, I noticed an Advent
Sourcebook - from Liturgy Training publications in Chicago. It gives lots of prayers and some
interesting quotes from all over. This week I’m reading the material for the
Second Week, entitled, “Wealth of the Poor”.
Last night I spotted a piece by Eduardo Galeano - a
Uruguayan journalist and writer. I had never heard of him - and I know nothing
about Uruguay - except that
its capital is Montevideo.
He’s around my age. I’m born in 1939. He’s born in 1940. He wanted to be a
soccer player. He says every boy in Uruguay wanted to be a soccer
player. He becomes a journalist and a writer.
HE WRITES ABOUT
THE LITTLE GUY AND LITTLE GAL
I looked up on line last night just who this Eduardo Galeano
is. He writes about the poor of the earth - especially the unnoticed - the
nobodies of our world. This does not go down well at times with the big guys.
In 1973 there was a military coup in Uruguay and Eduardo Galeano is arrested and his
book, Open Veins of Latin America is
banned in that country - as well as Chile
He escapes and settles in Argentina
- till there is a military coup there a short time after he gets there. His name
is on the list of those to be killed. So he goes to Spain. He returns to Uruguay and Montevideo in 1985 - when the country has
elections and goes the opposite direction.
Here’s the quote and the story that I found in the Advent
political prisoners may not talk without permission, or whistle, smile, sing,
walk fast, or greet other prisoners; nor may they make or receive drawings of pregnant women, couples, butterflies, stars or birds.
One Sunday, Didsasko
Perez, school teacher, tortured and jailed “for having ideological ideas,” is
visited by his daughter Milay, aged five. She brings him a drawing of birds.
The guards destroy it at the entrance of the jail.
On the following Sunday,
Milay brings him a drawing of trees. Trees are not forbidden, and the drawings
get through. Didasko praises her work and asks about the colored circles
scattered in the treetops, many small circles half-hidden among the branches:
“Are they oranges? What fruit is it?”
The child puts her fingers to her mouth: “Ssssshhh.”
And she whispers in
his ear: “Silly. Don’t you see they’re eyes? They’re the eyes of the birds that
I smuggled in for you.”
That’s the story. Till I read up on the life of Eduardo Galeano
I didn’t really get the story - other than it being interesting and puzzling.
Combining it with today’s readings I got this out of it.
Today’s first reading is from Isaiah 40: 1-11. It’s the beginning
of Second Isaiah. The Israelites are in exile - in the prison of Babylon - and Second
Isaiah draws pictures of hope in words for this people. Right now we’re in a
wasteland - but the Lord is going to lead us out by a brand new road - lowering
the mountains and filling up the valleys to get us home. It’s a picture of
hope. He’s saying, “Enough already. See the way out of this. Open your eyes to a better future.”
Today’s gospel from Matthew 18: 12-14 has Jesus telling us he cares for the little
ones. He paints a picture in words of a
lost sheep - and see how he leaves the 99 to find the little one. He doesn’t
worry about the 99 who are doing okay.
The message is to open up our eyes and see and then care for the lost ones - for those who
feel like they are in exile - for those in prison - for those in nursing homes
- for the children - especially the poor who are neglected and hurting. We need
to be like that little girl and draw pictures for those who need eyes to see how to escape from their
littleness - and their poverty.
I plan to check out more about Eduardo Galeano - because I
picked up on the little research I did on him last night. I see that he’s
labeled a “Leftist”. I see that he challenges the First World foreign policies
- including the United
States - since the 1970’s - and before that.
I see that he gets people thinking outside of their boxes - especially if they
are narrow. He doesn’t like borders. He sees us as citizens of the earth.
Caesar Chavez at a meeting of the countries of the Americas publicly handed Barack
Obama Eduardo Galeano’s book, Open Veins
of Latin America - which made it a best seller. In his writings about the
poor of the planet - the lost sheep - people like the Somali Pirates and those
in prison, I picked up that he upset lots of folks - and challenges lots of
I assume that the
writers of the Advent book I picked up think that is something we need for Advent - as
Christians - to understand why Christ came in the first place - and why he drew
us the picture of him looking for that 100th sheep that was lost -
and let’s hope we do as well - noticing each other - especially when we’re
The title of my homily for this 2 Monday of Advent is,
“Seeing the Desert Bloom.”
DESERT HOUSE OF
PRAYER: TUCSON, ARIZONA
The Redemptorists of our DenverProvince have a retreat house just
outside of Tucson, Arizona - along with a place called, “The
Desert House of Prayer.”
A bunch of years ago I was asked to do two weeks of talks
out there. My hope each day was that it would rain. I’ve always heard it's one of life’s most beautiful sights: desert rain and then to see what
happens to the earth right after it. The desert comes to life big time.
It didn’t rain - so that’s one of life’s disappointments. It's still on my bucket list.
BUT - LOTS OF BUTS
But I did see an empty lot on the Lower East Side of New
York City go from being dump - containing
rusting shopping carts, tossed toilet
bowls, thrown away mattresses, etc. etc. etc. - becoming a tiny park - with
benches - shade trees - a small community vegetable garden - some cement chess
and card tables - and people sitting there enjoying a quiet nook in the middle
of a busy neighborhood.
But I have seen family members and priests recover from alcoholism and
getting into AA 12 Step Programs for their recovery.
But I have seen a junky, dilapidated house become a
beautiful home where a family lives - in both New Orleans
But I’ve seen many a road go from one with pot holes and
bumps to a brand new road - black topped - new white lines and it flowed.
But I’ve seen people walking well with new knees and new
But I’ve seen people recover from a gambling addiction.
But I repaired and rebuilt a boardwalk by the ocean that was
totally destroyed by a Nor’easter.
But I read about Grandma Moses - Anna Mary Robertson -
mother of 10 children - 5 of whom died in childbirth - started painting in her late 70’s and did
some 1600 paintings till her death at 101. She sold her first paintings - small
ones 2 dollars - large ones 3 dollars. In November of 2006, her 1943 painting,
Sugaring Off sold for 1.2 million.
But I’ve seen old folks dancing up a storm at many a
But I’ve seen people recover from stuttering, Bell’s Palsy,
a stroke and what have you.
Recovering, renewal, beginning again, new life, roads
finished, safety, flowers blooming, healing, redemption - are all themes in today’s two
In the first reading from Isaiah 35: 1-10, we hear that the desert and the parched
land will exult, The earth will bloom with beautiful flowers. Everyone is singing.
Sore hands and knees will be strengthened. Hearts that are frightened will stop being
afraid. The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The lame will leap. Those who can’t speak, will speak out.
In today’s gospel from Luke 5: 17-26, the man who is paralyzed by sickness and sin is forgiven and
healed - and stands up praising Jesus - saying, “We have seen incredible things
Today - it’s been raining. It’s kind of dreary. Remember the old saying, "Bloom where you're planted." A question then: What can I do to make life
bloom around us today?" Amen.
Painting on top: Blooming Cactus by Amy H. Whitehouse
Quote for Today - December 10, 2012 "Suppose someone is hiding and he stirs, he shows his whereabouts thereby; and God does the same. No one could ever have found God; God gives himself away." Meister Eckhart [1260-1327], Meister Eckhart
The title of my homily is, “Landscape: Inner and Outer.”
Today’s readings - for this Second Sunday in Advent - talk
about landscape - inner and outer - more outer than inner - however.
The first reading from the prophet Baruch talks about the
heights of Jerusalem
- where people came to visit on a regular basis - to see the big city - from
the east and the west. Then Baruch talks about the leveling of landscape -
mountains being lowered and gorges being filled in. He also talks about every
kind of tree lending both shade and fragrance for those on the road to the city.
Then at the end of today’s first reading Baruch goes within: how God is leading
the people of Israel
in joy - by the light of his glory - so
that they will travel this life with mercy and justice.
Today’s gospel has Luke’s way of beginning the coming out of
Jesus as an adult. He locates Jesus in history. He tells us who was emperor at
the time - Tiberius Caesar - who was governor - Pontius Pilate - who was
tetrarch of Galilee - Herod - and then he
gives a few more names - as well as the names of Annas and Caiaphas - who were
high priests at the time. Next he tells
us of John the Baptist who came to proclaim a baptism of repentance for the
forgiveness of sins. John quotes the prophet Isaiah. It’s the same message that
we heard from Baruch: roads and paths are to be made straight - valleys are to
be filled in - with the mountains and hills being lowered - and winding roads
are to be made straight and rough ways made smooth. Then the closing message is
about changes in our inner landscape - redemption and salvation coming to us
from our God.
The title of my homily is: “Landscape: Inner and Outer.”
We’ve all been on the roads of life and we’ve all seen signs
indicating, “Highway Construction Ahead.”
I had the front seat of a bus with our high school seniors
last Friday coming back from a 4 day retreat at Malvern Retreat House in Pennsylvania. I had
looked at the readings for today just before I left - so as to think about a
homily for today on the bus. I saw landscape in the readings. I saw landscape
out the front window of the bus. I saw hills - no mountains - but hills and
slopes - dips and twists and turns. I saw road construction here and there on
the way - especially on 95 north of Baltimore.
When is that going to be finished?
Maybe like airports, construction, revamping, always goes
I couldn’t help but think a retreat is a good thing for
folks to attend from time to time. Retreat houses are usually located where
there is beautiful landscape. I suspect the motive is for folks to go within:
to check out their inner landscape.
What does it look like inside me - in my invisible side?
What am I like? If someone could walk around inside me - what would they see?
Do I have rough roads - that need repair? Where do I need to
be inner beautified? Where are my potholes - that bother me and others all the
time? Where do I have to plant inner trees and dig for water?
As I sat on the bus thinking about all this - I thought: “That’s
one of the purposes of Advent - to look
at our inner landscape - and make our paths to God better - and better for God
to travel to us.”
I think of the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph coming
south on a donkey - heading for Bethlehem
- the place where Jesus is born.
I laugh. I celebrate - after all this talk about beautiful
landscape - Jesus is born in a stable with the stink of animals. So he’ll come
to us - however we are - but I guess it would be better, if we were better.
Quote for Today - December 9, 2012 "One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he can't give up a thing without wanting everyone else to give it up. That isn't the Christian way." C.S. Lewis, Christian Behavior, 1944 Now about that fish on Friday............