Saturday, February 16, 2013


Quote for Today - February 16, 2013

"Fear makes the wolf bigger than he or she is."

German Proverb


Put down the names of 3 people you fear:

1) _____________________    _______________

2) _____________________    _______________

3) _____________________    _______________

Then put down next to their name the one thing you fear about that person.

Woof! Woof! Wolf! Wolf! Howl! Howl! Laugh .... Laughing.....

Friday, February 15, 2013



The title of my homily is, “God Doesn’t Wear A ‘For Sale’ Sign.”

I don’t know about you, but I find this topic and theme really worth thinking about.

Yesterday afternoon after getting back from a wake, I read today’s readings and walked with them on a 45 minute walk through the Naval Academy.


The first thing that hit me after reading today’s readings was, “God Can’t Be Bought!”

Then I said to myself, “Entitle the homily: ‘God Doesn’t Wear a ‘For Sale’ Sign.’”

That title might have more impact over, “God Can’t Be Bought!” but I’m still wondering about that.


That got me thinking about Valentine’s Day. If the guy doesn’t buy his wife a card or a gift or take her out to dinner, he’s in trouble. At least that’s the fantasy, the sellers of cards and chocolates - the owners of restaurants and flower shops - would like publicized and advertized loud and clear.

Then I wondered if a couple who are dead or broken up psychologically - could they heal by gifts. If I’m true to this insight I’m wondering about, “No! You can’t buy love.”

Then I thought about politics - and bribes - payoffs - tokens of appreciation - that are part of oiling the palms of public officials all over the world.

The church is no stranger to money.

Next I thought about teenagers discovering that you can’t buy friendships. I’ve heard on enough teen retreats the painful reality of someone who tried to buy a friendship - and got burnt - used - and then they discovered that friendships and relationships are mystery. Gifts don’t deliver friendships.

Of course kids use kids who have money or a car or looks for their own benefit.

Time tells everything.

Pain is a tough teacher.

As I was thinking about this - while walking through the Naval Academy - I began remembering a song by the Beatles. Didn’t they have a song, “Can’t Buy Me Love”. When I got back here I looked it up. 

Sure enough they sing that money, diamonds can’t buy me love. In the long run people discover they are not enough. It has to be love and the human fit - for a relationship to make it and for a relationship to work.


It seems that the prophets picked up you can’t buy God. Fasting, prayer, sacrifices are not enough. One just has to experience God and let God love me as I am unconditionally.

How old does one have to be to discover that someone who loves me doesn’t love me for my money or looks or possibilities - but because of who I am down deep simple? If they love me for those reasons, expect disaster.

How old does one have to be to discover that God loves me freely - and I don’t have to do anything to earn that love.

God does not wear a “For Sale” sign.


I wish I could spell out the importance of this question here - in this homily - but I’m only beginning to infringe on the nuances.

So I have to do a lot of homework on all this. This is just a first draft. As I was walking yesterday thru the Naval Academy, different insights were hitting me. I kept saying to myself, “This is big stuff here. Get a handle on it.”

I can’t. It’s illusive. It’s mystery. It’s God stuff. It’s relationship stuff. It’s lifetime stuff. Go figure.

The scriptures help.

How much do I have to do to be saved?  Some would answer, “Nothing. God saves us. All I have to do is simply put everything into God’s hands.” The Christian would say, “Simply put your whole trust that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior and let go.”

Various Gospel texts and New Testament texts support this.

Then I sensed some caution whispers in my brain. I could hear, “Wait a minute!”  I could hear, “It all depends.”

In human relationships, there are calls for unconditional love. In marriage, that’s why vow formulas often have phrases like “sickness and health” and “in good times and in bad”. People shut down, get depressed, get lazy, make mistakes. Thank God they always don’t happen in both at the same time.

At the same time static situations needs to become dynamic situations. Couples need to talk out loud what they see is the state of their union on a regular basis. Couples need to clarify expectations. Couples need to agree to disagree.

It helps when couples click - fit - are a good match. It helps when couples realize on the 7’s [7, 14, 21, 28, 35, year marks], “We were meant for each other. It’s all mystery - but we’ve been blessed - but we also work to make our marriage a good marriage.”

So a good marriage calls for communication about expectations and conditions that need to be met. There are “No! No’s!” in a marriage.

If we one drinks too much - if one becomes a lump or a couch potato -  if one doesn’t bathe - if one just doesn’t do anything to foster the growth of the relationship, things can become tough.


That’s human couples - marriages and relationships - the question I’m getting at in this homily is:  does God have conditions? Does God wear a “For Sale” sign?

Do I have to do anything to be saved?  Can I buy a ticket to heaven or does everyone get a free pass?

Matthew certainly presents limitations in his way of addressing this question.

Luke does too - but seems makes getting into heaven easier.

Thank God we have Matthew and Luke. Thank God we have Mark and John - and the rest of the New and Old Testaments.

Matthew  25: 31- 46 - Jesus’  great parable of the Last Judgment has everyone lined up as a sheep or a goat. One  goes to hell or heaven based on whether we served and fed and visited the sick the lost and abandoned. Matthew when he gives the parable of being invited to the wedding 22: 1-14, has a guy thrown out - because he didn’t have the proper wedding garment on. That’s a restriction. So evidently there are boundaries and conditions.

Next - the added question. If I fulfill those requirements, would that be buying God?

In Luke 15 we have the 3 big parables on all this. They are the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. In those 3 stories it seems we are brought right into the kingdom as is. And all are invited into the wedding banquet. You don’t have to buy a wedding suit or dress for the occasion. Come as you are.[Cf.  Luke 14:15-24.]

Whose closer to the truth: Matthew or Luke?

What is God really like?

We have to die to find out.


In this homily I’m saying that God can’t be bought. God does not wear a “For Sale” sign.

We can fast and do all that stuff. Good if it’s good for us.

Better - if it’s better for others - as Isaiah  58: 1-9a says in today’s first reading - when he tells us what kind of fasting God calls for loud and clear in today’s first reading.

We can fast - as today’s gospel - Matthew 9: 14-15 - puts it, but if the fasting kills the celebration of life in a person, stop the fasting. If Lent makes us worse than we usually are, stop the fasting. We heard about the evils of a certain type of fasting, alms giving, praying, tooting one’s horn on Ash Wednesday. We also remember the old stories preachers told at the beginning of Lent - about families can’t waiting for Lent to end because so and so was abstaining from liquor for Lent. Amen.

Quote for Today - February 15, 2013

"He's been that way for years - a born questioner but he hates answers."

Ring Lardner [1885-1933]

Question: Is that me?

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Quote for Today - February 14, 2013

"Humankind is composed of two sorts of people - those who love and create, and those who hate and destroy."

Jose Marti [1853-1895] in a Letter to a Cuban Farmer [1893]

Love Sculpture in New York City - from the design for a Christmas card by Robert Indiana [1928 - ] for the Museum of Modern Art in 1964.

Rage is from the cover of the album Renegades - Rage Against the Machine

Choice: Every day with our tongue and our actions, and mind and our behavior we have a choice to love and create or destroy and hate. Our move.....

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


The title of my homily or reflection for this Ash Wednesday is disintegration.

When Ashes are rubbed into our forehead - our skull  - our face - on Ash Wednesday, the person giving the ashes says, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  I always say  the second message: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Dust - it seems to be a must - everything disintegrates - slowly - and we see dust in as well as floating around inside our homes - sometimes when the sun is sliding through an afternoon window. Dust seems to land on everything in a room or attic that isn’t used that often.

The title of my homily or reflection for this Ash Wednesday is disintegration.

I don’t dust - well maybe two times a year - so I suspect I’m more aware of disintegration than others.

In winter - the tips of my fingers crack more than in summer. I put skin cream on my finger tips - as well as Band-Aids at times - but my skin still cracks and cut. I don’t remember my skin doing this as a little kid. Is that true?  My memory is also slowly disintegrating.


On Ash Wednesday they put ashes on our forehead and we hear the words from the book of  Genesis: “Remember you are dust and into dust you shall return.”

Disintegration …. Has anyone ever written a song called, “Disintegration”? or is that too tough a topic to touch. I looked that question up. Sure enough there is an album called, “Disintegration” by The Cure - whoever they are. Are they still together or have they disintegrated?

Have you been to a funeral lately?  More and more people are being cremated after they die. It hastens the process. It saves money and space. Some people are dealing with doing funerals that way better than others.


I remember one of the first jokes I got - that had some abstraction in it - and I was just a little kid. “What did the moron say when he saw dust curls under his bed?” Answer: “Someone is either coming or going?”

On Ash Wednesday we hear the words rubbed into our forehead along with ashes, “Remember you are dust and into dust you shall return.”

Ash Wednesday - along with Palm Sunday - are two of the busiest days of the year for Church. People get something different. Ashes used to be collected from the palms from the previous year. Now the ashes are bought and come in plastic bags - and these seem to work  better.

Plastic bags blow in wind - end up stuck in trees and hedges - hurt or kill wild life - or make it to garbage dumps - where it takes 15 to 1000 years to disintegrate  - or they go up in flames - and become ashes.


Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent - the season of Seriousness - when it’s rubbed into our foreheads the message that we have a shelf life - an expiration date - and it’s printed in black ashes on the front side of our package - on our forehead and then those ashes disintegrate throughout the day. Kids love to chatter about ashes on Ash Wednesday.

Last Sunday afternoon at 3 PM I had the baptism of a tiny little baby right here at St. Mary’s: Evangeline Cecilia.  Last Sunday afternoon at 4:30 PM I was at Hardesty’s for a wake service of a woman who died at the age of 87. Birth - Death - the in-between. Church - church time - reminds us of so much.

Life is the integration and disintegration. 

Life is the integration of our mom and dad who create us and our life time begins: pregnancy, birth, life, death. 

Life is learning to put things together - integrating seeing someone standing up and walking and talking and learning and working and relating and marrying and on and on and on -  and then we try it. And somewhere along the line we start to learn about disintegration - as we  learn what life is about. Some say we start crumbling from day one. I don’t want to be that realistic. A baby’s skin is much different than an 87 year old lady’s skin. At the age of 73, my skin tells me this every time I look in the mirror to shave or brush my teeth.

Ash Wednesday begins Lent - a time to check out the serious things.

We have the regular Mass schedule here at St. Mary’s as well as our other church - St. John Neumann: Sunday and weekdays.

We have the extras of Lent: Stations of the Cross every Friday evening at 7:30; Confessions on the weekends - as well as The Light Is On Confessions at St. John Neumann every Wednesday evening at 6:30 till 8 PM; 5 Tuesday nights an hour service on 5 Parables - a time for a talk, some prayers, some quiet, some reflection; Father Milton is going to do a program from Father Barron CD's on the 7 Deadly Sins on 4 Wednesdays after the 12:10; check the bulletin for all these events. Then there are the Soup Suppers on Wednesday evenings at St. John Neumann. Choose some of these events and spiritual practices - as well as use the booklets that were on the tables in the back of church.

We come here not just for Ashes or palms - both of which disintegrate - but for the Lord Jesus Christ in Communion - to be in communion with him and each other - because we believe because of him we last forever - and the person who I am disintegrates - but reintegrates - a good word for the Resurrection - which we believe in - as the Apostles  creed puts it, “I believe in … the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.


Quote for Today - February 13, 2013

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  I do not call you servants any longer,  because  the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.  You did not choose me, but I choose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” 

John 15: 12-16

National Marriage Week USA - February 7-14

Tuesday, February 12, 2013



The title of my homily for this 5th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “The Distance of One’s Lips to One’s Heart.”

[Gesture - with hands - from lips to heart and then say] “That’s about 12 inches or one foot to one’s mouth - to one’s heart.”


Today’s First Reading - Genesis 1: 4 to 2:4a -  has these wonderful words from the first Creation Account in Genesis, Yesterday we heard about God’s creations on the first 4 days. Today we have the last 3 days - the last day being the Sabbath - the day of rest. It looks like the idea of weeks of 7 days - with one day of rest - goes way, way back, into our history.

Today’s Gospel - Mark 7;1-13 -  has these powerful words of Jesus - the heart of what I want to talk about. It’s something Jesus discovered: some people honor God with their lips but their hearts are far away.

Let me try to tie the two readings together this way:  the first creation account has God speaking and his words create the world - the universe. His words are powerful - creative. When God says, “Let there be birds and fish and creepy crawly things”, there are birds and fish and creepy crawly things as a result.

Our words can be empty and vain - fake and disconnected to our heart.  Question: how creative are my words?  Do my words bring light and life - like God’s words? After all I’m made in the image and likeness of God.

The title of my homily is, “The Distance of One’s Lips to One’s Heart.”

Last night while working on this homily I couldn’t find a specific quote I was looking for. I remember reading in Rabbinic Literature that rabbis liked to point out that the distance from the lips to the heart or vice versa - can be very close or very far.

The distance from the lips to the heart can be seven miles for some - and right next to each other for others.

Jesus met people giving lip service to God, to the Law, but that’s all it is: lip service.

Their bodies - their words - their prayers were in the temple - but their hearts were miles away.


Today’s first reading from Genesis ends with mention of the Sabbath.

These Genesis stories are here to teach us great lessons. The story teller is saying - we need to take a break every seven days - like God did. Then on the Sabbath - we need to stop. We need to rest. We need distance and difference from the rest of the week.

We as Christians have Sabbath.

We also have Lent. It starts tomorrow.

The books in the back of Church - the readings at Mass - have plenty of food for thought - to digest.


This morning my message would be to rest - be silent - reflective - and check out the distance between  my words and my heart.

If you use Map Quest or one of these GPS programs to get directions, they often tell us how many miles we are from our destination.

In this homily I’m saying we can be praying with our lips but our hearts can be far from God. We do this to each other as well. We can say to another, “I love you” but it can be lip service. The words never get down to our heart or come from the heart. The result can be babble not Bible.

This Lent close the distance. This could be a good Lenten resolution.


Quote for Today - February 13, 2013

“Marriage is a covered dish.” 

Swiss Proverb 

National Marriage Week USA - February 7-14

Monday, February 11, 2013


Quote for Today - February 11, 2013

“Once more it was borne in on him that marriage was not the safe anchorage he had been taught to think, but a voyage on uncharted seas.”

Edith Wharton, in The Age of Innocence

Then what: if there are no maps of one's specific marriage, then what?

Possible answer: talk to each other and then jot down on paper 5 things we have learned so far in our specific marriage. Then talk to other couples and see what they have figured out so far as well. Maybe one has to come up with one's own maps and charts.

National Marriage Week USA - February 7-14

Sunday, February 10, 2013



The title of my homily is, “Had A Theophany Lately?

That’s a question. 

Better -----  I better explain what a theophany is - before I ask the question.

A theophany is a God experience.

Theophany -  spelled T H E O P H A N Y - theophany….

Theos - meaning God - as in Theology - words about God....

Theos - the Greek word for God - becoming Deus - in Latin - becoming the origin of words  in English like “Deity” or “Deism” or as the Spanish often say, “O Dios mios!” “Oh my God!”

Phaino -  spelled   P H A I N O - phaino….

Phaino - meaning to shine - to bring in the light - to become evident - to appear - as in the word “epiphany” or the word “theophany”....

The title of my homily is, “Had A Theophany Lately?”


In today’s readings we have stories about different people having a theophany.

In the 1st reading, Isaiah has his in the temple. In the 2nd reading, Saul,  who becomes Paul, mentions his conversion. It happened on the road to Damascus - when he falls on his face - and realizes his blindness in persecuting Christians. And in today’s Gospel, Simon and has his at the lakeshore - when he and his companions experience their call to switch from catching fish to catching people.

Awesome is the experience. Horror can be part of the experience. Sorrow can also be part of the experience - as I begin to realize my life has been so terrible - or I haven’t lived up to my potential - or I haven’t really used my gifts. I feel like I’ve caught nothing in my life. My nets are empty. My net worth feels like zero.

Comparisons and contrast  have been part of many people’s conversions.

Coming into a holy place can trigger thoughts and feelings of unholiness. That's one reason churches are built big and beautiful.  How many people who have been away from church and God for years hesitate before walking into a church for a funeral or a wedding? Back benches are back there for this reason. Churches have pillars to hide behind. Jesus’ parable in Luke of the Public Sinner in the back of the temple - with head bowed - in contrast to the Pharisee who thinks he’s holy - bragging with head up high up front is right on target [Cf. Luke 18: 9-14]

In today’s first reading Isaiah in the temple realizes that such horrible stuff has come out of his mouth. We can relate to that - with cursing or gossip or putting others down - without really knowing who they are. Isaiah pictures an angel - part of the Seraphim - flying down with hot embers in tongs - and touching his lips - burning, singeing sins away from his sinful lips, mouth and tongue. 

In today’s second reading Saul realizes his smallness - can’t believe that God would call him - that God’s grace could claim him and lift him up and be his light.

In today’s gospel, Simon - whom Jesus renames Rock, Peter - in shock - seeing the gleaming shining nets full of fish - almost to breaking point -  tells Jesus to leave him immediately. Various people in the early sections of the gospels tell Jesus, “Get out of my life! Don’t bother with me!”

Don’t we all at times do just that consciously or unconsciously? Comparisons and contrasts can crush us.

Comparing themselves to God - smallness is the theophany - our tininess and inadequacies are the first part of the epiphany - the theophany.


The title of my homily is, “Had A Theophany Lately?”

Andrew Greeley - the priest sociologist and novelist, professor and writer - often spoke about the research done in this area - that lots of people have mystical experiences - God moments - out of body experiences.  How do they know that? They ask people!

As priest I have heard lots and lots and lots of people tell me about their God moments.

As priest I like to ask people, “What have been your God moments?”

After this homily, I’ll now sound a bit more profound and professional - as I’ll ask, “Had A Theophany Lately?”

Better, talk to each other about your life - your ups and downs - but especially those moments when it all made sense. Moments when and where we met God and experience God’s grace - when we were able to say the great words of Paul in today’s second reading, “But by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace has not been ineffective.” Or the old translation which many of us knew: “My grace is sufficient!”

Sometimes people see rainbows in the spilt gasoline - especially when spill and disaster hits their life - and they say after the initial feeling of “Bummer!” - “It’s all okay! It’s all in your hands O God. Sometimes people laugh. Sometimes people cry.

Sometimes people experience God while listening to music or reading the scriptures or praying the rosary - or looking at the stars at night - or spotting the moon out the kitchen window - just before going to bed.

I have heard people tell me that they experienced God when the plane began to shake high in the sky - or while walking the beach in the morning on vacation - or in their experiences of love with and for their spouse - or becoming pregnant and experiencing the birth of a child - at the death of a parent - a 25th or 50th anniversary - the birth of a grandchild - gardening - raking autumn leaves - out on a boat in the Bay - a great meal - volunteering at a soup kitchen - watching a flash mob YouTube scene - seeing a family at Mass - all together 3 benches in front of us - can be the main message of the Mass. It can be watching a dad pushing his child on a swing - or standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon or getting off the boat on Grand Cayman Island - or simply touching a casket at a funeral after receiving communion and saying to a friend who has died, “Thank you!”

Talk to each other. “Had a Theophany Lately?”


In today’s gospel Simon Peter wants Jesus to disappear.

Sometimes when we really see ourselves - as we really think we are - we want God to disappear.  We might even want to disappear.

Sometimes people are shocked that another can love them - and want to marry them - or be willing to forgive them - because of a mess in their lives.

Sometimes people hire us or compliment us - but we know they don’t know who we really are.

Maybe they do - maybe they see us and love us as we are - and we don’t.

Or maybe they have deep down hope for us.

I’m still wondering for a good 30 years now the following quote: “A man marries a woman; a woman marries a project.”

Is that true?

Does that work?

If true, what happens if it doesn’t work?

What about God and us?  Are we simply loved - or are we a project or are we both?

This is the year of Luke and I love Luke Chapter 15 because the 3 stories there: the Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. All speak of unconditional love.

In fact I think when we experience God’s unconditional love for us, that moment is a theophany moment. I have memories of that love one moment in a chapel in upstate New York  -  another one on an 8 day directed retreat in Wernersville, Pa. and another one while back packing in the Rockies - and each moment is as clear as remembering  a car accident - and those experiences are etched in the cement on the sidewalk of my memory. Experiencing God’s overwhelming love is was overwhelming glimpse of our forever God.

How about you? What have been your Theophany Moments?  Name the time, the place - to each other. We know them.


Lent starts this coming Wednesday - when ashes are rubbed in our face - and we hear words like, “Remember you’re just dust and into dust you’re going to return.”  Bummer.

Now I don’t think the goal of life is to make God moments, God experiences, the goal of life - in the here and the now.

I think loving God and our neighbor and ourselves each day is.

However, when we live life to the full, sometimes God shows up when we come to church like what happened to Isaiah that day in the temple.

Sometimes God shows up on the road to Damascus - and we’re just driving along alone  - and all is good or we’re in a traffic jam or crash or we get a ticket - or we see a great flock of birds flying over a cold snow specked February field - and we go “Wow!”

And sometimes God shows up when we’re fishing or trying to reach one of our kids - or when we’re trying to make a sale.

Surprise. Watch those sunrises and sunsets - and wonderful moments in between.

Surprise. Why wait till we wake up on the other side of death for our first theophany?


Quote for Today - February 10, 2013

“I take you to be my spouse. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” 

Roman Liturgy

National Marriage Week USA - February 7-14