The title of my homily for this 4th Friday in
Ordinary Time is, “High Plains Drifter.”
That’s the name of a Clint Eastwood western which was on TV
within the last few weeks. I saw the second half of it. Father Joe Krastel had
the remote. While clicking he went past it and I spotted it. Then he fell
asleep. With difficulty, I was able to get the remote out of his hands and go
back to the movie, “High Plains Drifter.”
It’s a 1973 movie. I hadn’t seen it in 20 years. By seeing
it again, it triggered old wonderings.
Then while sitting down this morning to work on a short
homily for today, I remembered that movie
as I read today’s readings.
High Plains Drifter is not a chick flick. It would be on a TV channel like
Movies for Guys Who Like Movies. It’s # 46 of 100 Greatest Guy Movies - which
include movies like French Connection,
Death Wish, Dirty Dozen and The
So this homily is more for the guys here. Sorry ladies.
Clint Eastwood - cowboy - rides into a small mining town -
with the name of Lago. It’s by the side
of a lake - out there somewhere - in the West.
It’s a small mining town. Because of greed and fear of
3 bad guys - the townsfolks let their sheriff
- Jim Duncan - get whipped and killed.
Clint Eastwood proceeds to get involved in the story. He
kills a few bad guys - so the town hires him to protect the town folks from the 3
bad guys who are coming back to town. They are the ones who killed the sheriff.
Little do they know, Clint Eastwood has
come to straighten out their consciences.
John Wayne wrote a letter to Clint Eastwood complaining
about the violence etc. in the movie. He wrote, “This isn’t what the West was
about. This isn’t the American people who settled this country.”
Clint Eastwood in reply said about the movie which he directed and in which he
starred: “It’s just an allegory … a
speculation on what happens when they go ahead and kill the sheriff and
somebody comes back and calls the town’s conscience to bear. There’s always
retribution for your deeds.”
Today’s readings - the First Reading from Hebrews 13: 1-8 - and the
Gospel from Mark 6: 14-29 - bring up various issues.
Today’s first reading calls for hospitality and love. The people in the town of Lago in the movie lack both.
Today’s first reading
brings up a theme that comes up in literature and at times in movies. It’s the
theme of unknowingly entertaining angels. In the movie, they don’t know who
Clint Eastwood the Stranger is. He’s an unknown and they have to entertain him.
He never gives his name. He's not an angel.
Today’s first reading talks about imprisonment and ill-treating people. The
movie certainly talks about that.
Today’s first reading talks about honoring marriage and not
defiling the marriage bed. The movie presents the opposite a bit.
Today’s first reading talks about money - and not get caught
up in becoming discontent without it. The movie talks about money - big time - and the problem it has caused for the
town’s folks. Money is often the problem behind a lot of problems.
Today’s gospel talks about violence. Today’s gospel gives hints of alcohol
and lust and especially murder. John the Baptist’s head is cut off and brought into Herod
on a platter. Today’s gospel would be R Rated for it’s violence.
I better come up with a strong conclusion.
What I thought was the key issue in this movie and today’s
readings - especially the gospel is consequences.
There are consequences - from our good deeds - but we mainly
notice the consequences from our sins and selfishness. Herod had to live with the consequences of his boasting and bragging - as well as having John the Baptist beheaded.
Clint Eastwood - as the High Plains Drifter - forces the
people of the town of Lago
to paint the town red - all the buildings. Where did they get all that red
paint? The reason: because of their letting the sheriff be beaten and killed with
In case the movie goers and the town folks don’t get that
blood message, the High Plains Drifter makes the towns folks cross out the name Lago on the edge of their town
and write over it, the word, “Hell”.
I assume the message is: we create our own hells - in our towns,
in our homes and in our lives.
In today’s gospel they ask a question we hear in the
gospels: who are you?
At the end of the movie,
High Plains Drifter, a short guy - a dwarf - asks the High Plains Drifter
his name and “Who are you?” as he’s about to ride off into the distance.
Who is this person Jesus? Do we want him in our lives so
that the Kingdom
of Heaven can arise in us or do
we want him gone as several characters in the Gospel of Mark want Jesus to do:
The choice is ours: Heaven or Hell - Jesus or Trouble?
The title of my homily for this 4th Thursday in
Ordinary Time is, “Approaching God.”
HEBREWS 12: 18-24
When I read today's first reading which has these image filled words: "Remember what you approached: not something touchable, not the blazing fire of Sinai, with darkness, gloom , and whirlwind, the trumpet-blast and the oracular voice, which they heard, and begged to hear no more; for they could not bear the command..." I wondered what would it be like to approach God? What will I be feeling?
What will be my thoughts if I am blessed to be aware of everything as
I’m approaching death? Or will I slowly slip into forgetting everything -
muttering mysteries to nurses - if they wonder what old folks are talking
about. Surprise! Then I wake up and I am about to meet God.
Do is say, "Oh no!" or "Oh wow! Great"?
What will it be like to approach God?
Did Jesus get angry when he heard people talking about God
as a angry screamer - tyrant - or a grumpy Father?
Did any of the images of God that we hear in the Jewish Scriptures - make Jesus
Is that why Jesus pictured God as that wonderful Father in his story of the
Prodigal Son - or the Good Shepherd looking for a lost sheep - or the woman who
had lost the coin and searched and searched till she found it? [Cf. Luke 15]
CHERRY PICKING SCRIPTURE TEXTS
Then it hit me - that I can cherry pick scripture texts -
stuff from the Jewish Bible - that can make God very forgiving - no matter
what - like the story of Hosea. He forgave his wife - no matter what.
can also pick texts from the Gospel where Jesus talks about a God who is very
fierce. For example in Matthew 25 Jesus finishes the Parable of the Talents by having
the useless servant thrown into the darkness outside - where there will be
wailing and grinding of teeth. Then in that same chapter 25, the King of the Final Judgment sends the goats into eternal punishment. Uh oh!
SO HOW DOES THIS ALL WORK?
What is God like? What would it be like to be called to His
I’ve met lots and lots of principals and moms and dads - who seemed wonderful, warm - and rather approachable. I’ve also met several priests, dads, bishops, principals who seemed very severe.
If our dad was a piece of cake - a most happy fellow - a
warm teddy bear of a guy - does that play into how we picture our God?
I always love to see the ending of the Wizard of Oz when
the Wizard - the man behind the curtain - is shown to be an ordinary human being.
When we die and get to heaven, what will it be like? Will God be approachable or unapproachable?
I like today’s first reading because the speaker says that
when we approach God we don’t need to do it with fear and trembling. Isn’t that
what the author of Hebrews is telling us in today’s first reading? When you approach God, God is not
untouchable. God is not a blazing fire - an erupting volcano. God is not gloomy darkness. God is not
storm or trumpet blast - or someone who is a silent iceberg.
I hear Kierkegaard [1813-1855] calling for Fear and Trembling.
I don't see myself approaching God with that feeling. I can say that now. At present I also hope I can say at the end of my life, “Peace God, Peace. God you My God - My Joy and
My Salvation. Amen."
Quote for Today - February 6, 2013 "It will be generally admitted that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man." E. M. Forster [1879-1970] Howard's End , chapter 5
The title of my homily is, “A Cloud of Witnesses VS. The Cling
In today’s first reading from Hebrews we have a very interesting first sentence. It has this
curious comment: “and sin that clings to us”.
I’ve preached on these readings for some 46 years now - so I
want to be enriched by something that grabs or challenges me - that didn’t hit
me before. That first sentence - rather long - is just one verse: Hebrews - 12: 1. It grabbed
me. Maybe it will grab you.
FIRST SENTENCE AGAIN
Let me read the first sentence again:
Since we are surrounded
so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden
sin that clings to us
and persevere in running the race
lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfecter of faith.
The author of Hebrews pictures life as a race - a run.
The author indicates a positive and then a negative.
A positive: keep your eyes on the great cloud of witnesses -
around us - or above us - especially the Lord Jesus Christ.
The runner runs the race remembering that others - saints -
good examples - have also run the race - and they made it. So keep moving
How many people have trained and run a 10 K race or a
marathon - because someone else did it - and encouraged them to do it. “You can
do it.” And as they run, when they run out of gas or have cramps or pains - or
are tempted to quit, hopefully they keep
going because others have kept going. Keep picturing that cloud of witnesses.
So we have saints, parents, good people - good examples - who have done it -
raised a family - kept the faith - and so we keep going.
For example, today we have the feast of St. Agatha - one of the 4 Early Church
women saints we have for the cold months: Cecilia in November, Lucy in December,
Agnes in January and Agatha here in February.
The first sentence also presents Jesus as part of the cloud of witnesses. It
urges us to keep our eye on Jesus - to fix our eyes on Jesus to keep going like
he did - till we finish the race.
The Stations of the Cross in every Catholic Church are not
just scenes from the end of Jesus’ life - but from our life as well - challenging us to make it our last station.
In today’s gospel we have scenes of 2 people who reached out to Jesus in their life.
The woman with blood problems reached out to touch Jesus and be healed and
helped. She is. And we have Jairus who comes to Jesus that he come and heal
his daughter. Jesus does.
So the message is to keep our eye on Jesus and those other
folks who have run this race before us. Those are the positive pushes for us to
keep running the race.
Then there are the negatives: the cling
of sins that weigh us down - that hold us back - the giving up - the negative voices - the lack of faith - the non
reaching out to Jesus to keep going.
People often say, “I have the same old habits, the same old
sins.” Don’t we all? The woman in today’s gospel has her problem for 12 years
and in the gospel of John there’s the guy who was sick for 38 years.
So we have both those influences - the positive and the negative - the dynamic cloud
of witnesses and the cling of sin.
Message: The bottom line is this: it's in our power and with the grace of God to focus on the positive rather to let that static
cling of sin - our past mistakes - or our present addictions to be our main drain.
The title of my homily for this 4th Monday in Ordinary Time is,
This will be a simple, basic - a not too complicated homily - a
message we need to hear on a regular basis - like, “Keep trying.” “Keep
praying.” “Keep forgiving.” “Love one another.”
So a short homily on, “Have Faith.”
TODAY’S FIRST READING
Today’s first reading continues with the Letter to the Hebrews. The author of Hebrews in chapter 11: 32-40 begins with a list of various people
who did a lot by faith. They had to go through a lot of struggle, pain, suffering, being
tormented and hunted. Yet they kept going because they had faith.
So the obvious homily message: Have Faith.
It’s a theme all through the Letter to the Hebrews.
And I would add: if we read through the pages of our life, we’ll find that we
have had faith all through our life. It has been a stream, a river, an ocean at
times. Maybe there were periods of drought - but we came back to the faith -
and kept going.
MY CLASSMATE LARRY
Every time I hear the word “faith” - it triggers something my classmate Larry
said way back in 1966. I find it interesting on what we remember. We’ve had 100
or so good conversations through the years - but his comment on faith stands
We’re talking and he says, “Oh my God, I just realized that
I just finished my first year of preaching and every sermon had the same
message: “Have Faith!” Then he added the further comment: “I guess I was
preaching to myself.”
I’m slower. I still don’t know in the year 2013 what the
main theme that I preach is. Maybe I should ask others.
We have to have faith to deal with our demons, our
struggles, our chains.
We need to have faith to ask Jesus to enter into our life and not leave us. The
man in the gospel knows who Jesus is. In fact, it seems to me that only when we
know we need help - do we discover help is possible.
The man in the gospel who kept gashing and bashing himself
with his sins - the rocks of his mistakes - moves from telling Jesus not to
meddle with him - to ask Jesus to send his demons into the pigs and let them go
jump in the lake.
Sickness and sin bring more people to God - than jogging,
ham and cheese sandwiches, and ice cream cones.
CONCLUSION: FAITH IS A LEAP
The title of my homily is, “Have Faith.”
This mantra, this slogan, is good to bring to prayer - so
that when we come to a crisis - we will ask Jesus for help - that we will have faith in that crisis.
There are many definitions of what faith is.
Faith to me - is a leap - when in a crisis - or at a crossroads.
The image I like best is to call faith a leap - a jump - over some dangerous
obstacle that is before us.
We have all had the experience of coming to the end of a
street. We’re standing there at the curb. When all is well, it’s easy - to look both ways and to step down and cross the street. But
sometimes there is ice and slush - and then some black ice in the street at the
corner curb. We want to jump, leap a bit over the snow and the ice - but we
know it’s slippery. Will we make it? Will there be firm footing on the other
side. And ooops, I forgot to mention it’s dark and we can’t see the other side.
But we have faith and we make the leap - trusting that God is there on the other side of our jump.
Understand that understanding of faith and you get Paul Tillich's description of God as the Ground of Our Being. Amen.
Quote for Today - February 4, 2013 "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." William James [1842-1910] Questions: Agree or disagree? If disagree, what would you pick as the deepest principle? When was the last time you told another, "I really appreciate you!"? When was the last times someone said to you, "I appreciate you!"? If actions speak louder than words, how does one feel being appreciated in a non-verbal way? Think of one person whom you appreciate. Now how could you express that appreciation in a non-verbal way? Cash or check? Smile.
The title of my homily for this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time C is, “It’s Easier to Say, ‘I Love
You!’ Than to Love You.”
As I thought about today’s readings - especially today’s
famous reading from St. Paul - the one on love - love is this and this and it’s
not this and not that - I said, “Do a homily on Love!”
MAYOR ED KOCH
You might have seen on the news or in the newspapers that
the famous mayor of New York City
just died. As I read the obituaries I noticed that the obit writers pointed out that he liked publicity. What I liked about him was his question: “How am I doing?”
I'm sure you've seen requests in restaurants - asking people to fill out a short questionnaire about the restaurant. They want feedback. “How was the food?
How was the service? How clean were the bathrooms? How was the waiter and
The Christian calling is to love and to serve one another. How are we doing at that?
The Christian knows the great commandment: to love the Lord
our God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength - and the second commandment
is similar: to love our neighbor as ourselves.[Cf. Luke 10:25-28]
How are we doing?
Today’s second reading from First Corinthians - Chapter 13 - has St. Paul’s spelling out of what love is and
what love is not.
How are we doing on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the
highest, with each of the following: patience, kindness, endurance, hope, and
faith? How am I avoiding on a scale of 1 to
10, 10 being the highest with what love is not: not being jealous, pompous,
inflated, rude, not rejoicing when the other makes a mistake?
If you want a good night prayer or morning prayer on how to live each day, bookmark 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. In the morning it gives a plan on
how to love that day - or at night before going to bed it's a good examination of consciousness about
how well we loved that day. If married, what would it be
like to read that text each night out loud and talk to each other about how well we did that day? Interesting!
Love: how am I doing? "I love you!" Am I lip syncing that or am I really loving you?
The title of my homily once again: “It’s Easier to Say, ‘I
Love You!’ Than to Love You.”
We hear today’s second reading at 7 out of 10 weddings. It
tells me that the couple knows love is more than saying, “I love you!”
We’ve probably heard preachers at weddings say, “If people
who said, ‘I do!’ did, then more marriages would work than they do.”
At the end of today’s second reading Paul talks about
looking in a mirror. Those of you who use Microsoft on your computer know about
Windows 6, 7, 8 or whatever they are up to by now.
I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect Paul is talking about Mirrors # 1 here - a primitive version of a mirror - whereas we have Mirrors # 11 by now.
How many times have we looked into the mirror after taking a shower and
the glass is all steamed up? I would think that’s what Paul is talking about
here. Foggy Mirrors are like Mirrors # 1 - whatever they made mirrors out of in the mid
50’s - when Paul wrote his letter.
Moreover, I would think First Corinthians Chapter 13 is a great mirror. Next, another observation: I would
assume when we look into Paul’s words
about what love is and love isn’t when
we’re 24 - it’s different than when we look at those same words at 44 or 64 or 74. What are we looking at when we're looking at
First Corinthians Chapter 13? I would hope that how we see ourselves in those words has improved since the
first time we read First Corinthians 13.
After a big football game the commentators sometimes say of
the losing team - for example the 49ers - that it looks like they didn’t bring their A Game to the game
today. Or so and so did or didn’t.
Imagine if a group of commentators could look at our day and comment about what we
brought to the game of life that day.
I was listening to some commentators talking about pro
basketball the other night. Isaiah Thomas made several nuances: the difference
between the playoffs and the regular season; the other team being a top team or
a bottom team; and the schedule. A team might have played horrible that night,
but maybe the fact that they just played the
night before enters into the picture or why they lost - while the team that won had
three days off since their last game.
When it comes to love - better when it comes to being
patient, kind, and not being quick tempered - sometimes our schedule is jammed
packed - or we just went through something big at work or where we have been - that might make our understanding of what happened to be seen in a different light. I assume love also means understanding - and forgiveness - and discovering communicating about circumstances.
So love is tricky. Love is tough stuff. Someone said, “Some
folks we click with. Some folks we cross with. Love is manifested when we love
those we cross with.”
That quote brings us right into the wisdom of Jesus. When he challenged folks
with the tough love - for example the patience called for putting up with PITA people, some people walked away. When Jesus said that love means going the extra mile - giving the shirt off our
back for - laying down one’s life for others - his listeners found that
stuff too tough. As we heard in today’s gospel, they wanted to escort him out
of town and hurl his down a hill. By the end of the gospel, they are going to march him out of the city
to kill him on the cross.
CONCLUSION - LOVE: 3 STEPS
As mentioned earlier, when talking about love, the Gospels love to feature the two great commandments:to love God and to love
our neighbor as we love ourselves. That's 3 persons to love: God, Neighbor and Self.
In reality, I think we learn to work on these three in the opposite order.
Step One: is self - learning to love oneself. Look in the
mirror as the famous poem, “The Man in the Mirror” puts it. Look oneself in the
eye and ask: “How am I doing?” Do I like this person called “me”? We can look
at the wrinkles or the fat - but we can also stay with the eyes. They don’t
wrinkle or sag - but they can be the window into the within.
Look into one’s eyes or one’s I and ask, “How am I doing?”
How old was Jeremiah - the character in today’s first
reading - how did it take him to come up with his attitude that God wants me -
God knows me from those months I was in the dark in my mommy’s tummy - till
today - for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. God knows and loves me.
How am I doing with that one?
Does the wanted baby know that better than the “Oh no Baby!”?
Does the unwanted little screaming baby in the night - know
whether he or she is wanted and loved the way the light goes on at 2 AM and the
way he or she is held and fed? Has a PITA at work or school or next door or at
the relative at the family picnic ever changed because of our love for them? Do
students know whether this teacher or this coach really respects and loves
Step Two and Step Three: At some point in life we have to
move out of self and take step 2 and 3 towards others. Step 2 is loving the
ones we see and Step 3 is loving God who
is not seen.
Read the First Letter of John about
all this. He said how can we say we love God whom we cannot see when we don’t
love our neighbor whom we can see.
It's a neat mixing of both these poisons. I like the old distinction that envy deals with wanting others' stuff or people and jealousy deals with the fear or nervousness of others taking our stuff or people.