The title of my homily for this Friday in the Second Week of
Lent is, “Favorites.”
This is one of my favorite themes: favorites.
I love to ask parents who have more than one kid, “Who’s
The first response is usually a blocking hand [Gesture] and then, “I have no
The second response is often, “I love them all - but differently.”
The third response is sometimes, “The one I’m with.”
The fourth response is sometimes, “The one who needs me the most.”
The fifth response - but only later on - and usually out of
ear shot of all the kids - and often one to one - and often with a bit of hesitation - and
sometimes with lowered voice, “Joey! I always loved Joey. He is my favorite.”
TODAY’S FIRST READING
Today’s first reading from the first book in the Bible, Genesis 37: 3 begins quite bluntly and
without hesitation, “Israel
loved Joseph best of all his sons” and then the author gives the reason, “for
he was the child of his old age.”
So he makes Joseph a long tunic. It’s the famous coat of
many colors. Then the story quickly
gives the plot, the conflict, the turn, the twist, “When his brothers saw that
their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much more that
they would not even greet him.” Bummer!
Then when they see him coming from a distance - his father had
sent him to them when they were sheperding out in the fields - they plot to kill him.
The Book of Genesis has many key stories. This one ranks up
there near the top - because it’s tells us how the Israelites get to Egypt.
And today’s story ends with them not killing him, but selling
him for 20 pieces of silver.
We know Jesus is sold out for 30 pieces of silver. The price
of betrayal had gone up.
The Joseph story is great story telling. That’s why it has been preserved in
the Writings - the Sacred Scriptures.
The bottom line is that the tellers of the story are not
mainly concerned with favorites - but with how God saw Israel as his favorite -
and how he rescues them from their slavery in Egypt - the key theme of the
second book in the Bible, Exodus.
And I’ve heard Scripture Scholars saying that Creation is
not the favorite theme of the Bible. It’s Redemption. The key book is Exodus not Genesis. Genesis just
sets the scene.
Where we are from, who are parents are, our childhood, our
growing up, that’s all setting the scene stuff. Exodus - Redemption - Starting again after our falls - after
finding ourselves addicted to self, money, sex, drugs, youth, or whatever, that’s when real life begins.
Want to be God’s favorite: mess up. Become a lost sheep - a
lost Son - a lost coin with God’s image stamped on us. [Cf. Luke 15]
THE CHANGE - CONVERSION STORIES
I remember visiting a couple once. The kids were grown up and gone. The husband
was sitting there in the living room - within ear shot of his wife - who was
pulling together the last stuff of a supper salad. He says to me, “I married
her because she was beautiful. I married her for sex. Then after two years I
had to change. I had to stop being a jerk. I had to turn off the TV and be
attentive to her and talk to her.” In that first sentence his wife yelled from
the kitchen - her husband’s name - when he said he married her for sex.
Translation: shut up. But she lit up at the second part. He came to his Book of
Most people who consider the movie, The Natural, as one of their favorite movies, knows the scene when Roy Hobbs [played by Robert
Redford] is in a hospital bed in a maternity ward. Iris Gaines [played by Glenn
Close] says to Roy Hobbs - who is feeling horrible for what he did to her in
his life and what he had done to ruin his life. As it is worded in the novel by
Bernard Malamud from which the movie was based, Iris says to Roy, “We have two lives... the life we learn
with and the life we live after that. Suffering is what brings us towards
There it is: the
story of how life works.
Here are 7 conclusions on this theme of favorites:
Of course we don’t say to one kid over the other, “You’re
not my favorite!” or “So and so is my favorite.”
Sometimes we say to every kid, “You are my favorite” - so that long after we’re
gone, they’ll discover at some Thanksgiving Dinner we said that to everyone -
and they laugh at it.
If we aren’t the favorite, maybe we didn’t do what is right
and there is work and self growth called for.
Of course teachers, neighbors, friends have favorite friends,
neighbors, co-workers, teachers. We do. They do. Get over it.
We have our favorite priests etc. etc. etc. I love the
saying about priests and others, “One third like you. One third don’t like you.
One third don’t care.”
We have all heard the saying: “Be yourself!” Well, there’s a healthy, “Be yourself” and an
“Unhealthy be yourself!” It’s unhealthy if you are insecure and you do things
to buy friendship or to try be the favorite or what have you. It’s healthy if
you after 25 buy the saying, “Be who you is, because if you be who you ain’t,
then you ain’t who you is.” And then you don’t care who’s the favorite. It’s
nice to be, but it’s also nice to not have to work at it as a motive.
God has his favorites. The poor. The downtrodden. The
dumped. The hurting. The Sinner. So the key thing is to bring to God into our
conversations about where we stand in life with ourselves and our God. Maybe through suffering we need to learn to say
to God what Teresa of Avila said to him - when asking him, “Why do you let me
suffer?” And God said, “Because that’s how I treat my friends.” And she said
back to God, “Well maybe that’s why you have so few friends.” Ouch!
Quote for Today - February 28, 2013 "The pursuit of the Inner Child has taken over just as the moment when Americans ought to be figuring out where their Inner Adult is, and how that disregarded oldster got buried under the rubble of pop psychology and specious short-term gratification." Robert Hughes [1938-2012] Culture of Complaint, Oxford University Press, 223 pages, 1993
The title of my homily for this Tuesday in the Second Week
of Lent is, “Humility - Job #1 for A
kind of stuff in the papers - this and that - positive and negative - about
this upcoming election for a new pope. The Capital called Day 1 for comments from a priest
here at St. Mary’s. I’m glad I wasn’t asked - because a) Down deep I don’t know
enough of what is involved in all this and b) I’d probably make some kind of a cute statement which
would be a dumb statement in the long run. Since then I’ve
been thinking. In one sermon I
said, the Number 1 requirement for a new pope is that he proclaim Jesus Christ
- not himself. The pope is an important symbol to our world - of our Catholic
faith - and from what I read - more for U.S. Catholics than other places. He
himself has to see that Jesus is the reason for the whole institution. I see
that Pope Benedict in his writings was quite Jesus centered. I also put on
my blog a fun piece - having the Cardinals getting deadlocked - for 100 ballots
- so they decided to ask the whole church for what they want and on the 101st
ballot they came up with a total surprise. They don’t pick a cardinal. Nobody
noticed my blog piece and I haven’t been called to the Vatican to
explain. If asked to explain,
I would simply say that I was just being cute - while at the same time very
serious. What would you
consider the top qualification in a pope?
The title of my homily is, “Humility - Job #1 for A Pope!”
St. Bernard said - I assume
with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye - that the 4 Cardinal Virtues are humility, humility,
humility , humility.
I’d say humility has many ingredients. Here are 4: being
human, having a sense of humor, being honest, and having a sense of horror.
Human, humor, honesty, and horror.
Humility comes from the word “humus” earth - from which God
formed us from the clay, the mud, the soil of the earth. On Ash Wednesday we
heard we’re made from earth and we’ll be going back to earth. And the food we
eat - that becomes us - some more than others - comes from this earth to make
us who we are.
To be human is to recognize this. We leak. We flake. We
crumble. We are humbled by our slow sinking feelings - heading on the long
journey to the grave.
Humility then is being down to earth - human.
Pope John XXIII comes to mind for me with this quality. He
was born of a peasant sharecropping family in Northern
Italy. He had farmer’s hands. You probably heard this story: A
soviet diplomat and his wife came to see Pope John XXIII. The pope handed the
diplomat’s wife a rosary. When he placed the rosary beads in her hand, she said
to her husband in Russian, “Look, he has the hands of a worker, he is one of
us!” Of course she did not expect this peasant-pope to understand Russian.
He did - along with French, Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish, as well as his native
Italian. These were skills he needed and picked up in his work as a diplomat
himself. He also got his doctorate in Church History and knew the Fathers of
the Church well. So he was smart yet quite human - which to me is a key ingredient
to being humble.
Next John XXIII had a
good sense of humor. You’ve heard his comment when made pope he looks in the
mirror in his new outfit and says, “My God, this pope is going to be a disaster
on TV.” Being able to laugh at oneself is key to being humble.
Next honesty is part of humility. If the church needs
anything it’s honesty.
Lastly, part of humility is to have a sense of horror. Horror
happens in this world - in this life: suffering
- craziness - war - abuse - hunger - the haves having the advantage over the
have-nots. We need to be able to cry - not just laugh.
Today’s two readings say all this a thousand times better
than I just put it.
I wish they were electing the pope today and the boys had to hear today’s
The readings have a call to humility in them.
The first reading - Isaiah 1: 10, 16-20 - talks about the call to get things right - to put an end to sin -
cease doing evil - start doing good. Make justice your goal. Defend the widow
and the orphan.
The gospel - Matthew 23:1-12 - calls for humility - enough with the tassels and the titles - front
seats - and public show. Honors are not
one of the H’s for humility.
John XXIII called for cutting down the robes and stuff - and
Benedict put some of this stuff back - but his red shoes were not Prado’s - in
spite of that report.
Humility. Humility. Humility. Humility - a la Jesus.
These boys and all of us ought to be praying the old prayer
of the Church to Jesus: “Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.
Quote for Today - February 26, 2013 "You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself." Ethel Barrymore [1879-1959] Questions: Had your's yet? Please describe - especially to a spouse or close friend.
The title of my homily for this Monday in the Second Week of
Lent is, “On Hearing the Boos!”
Do umpires and referees hear the boos?
We’ve all been to a basketball, football or baseball game
and the referee or umpire was booed. Bummer!
We hear phrases like, “Throw the bum out!” “Horrible call ump!” “You’re blind!” “Get a pair of glasses!” and
phrases we can’t repeat.
Nobody likes to be booed.
ARMANDO GALARRAGA - NO HITTER
On June 2, 2010 in Detroit
- Armando Galarraga was pitching a perfect game for the Tigers - no runs, no
walks, no errors. 26 batters - 26 outs - in a row. One batter to go. Up comes Cleveland’s Jason Donald who hits a ground
ball which would be the final out. The umpire calls him safe at first base. The
crowd screams, “No way!” Etc. Etc. Etc.
Shortly afterwards - but too late - the umpire, Jim Joyce, said he made a mistake
and apologized to the pitcher. The baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, would not reverse the call and say it was a
won the game 3-0 - but Armando Galarraga does not go down in history for
pitching a no hitter and a perfect game.
In today’s gospel from the 6th chapter of Luke,
Jesus speaks about one of his key themes: not judging. [Luke
Jesus tells us to be merciful as his heavenly father is
Jesus tell us to “Stop judging and you
will not be judged.”
Jesus tell us to “Stop
condemning and you will not be condemned.”
Jesus tells us to “Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
Jesus tells us “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Evidently Jesus spotted a lot of judging going on. BOOS
The title of my homily is, “On Hearing the Boos!”
Life’s a game!
There are plenty of players on the field as we sit here in
the stands judging the plays.
We all do a lot of umpiring - refereeing, officiating - on
how our brothers and sisters are behaving.
Too bad we didn’t hear God booing us!
Last night was the so called, “Woman’s Super Bowl” the Oscars.
I didn’t watch it. However, I read in the papers various articles that voiced complaints
about the Oscar voting for last night - before and afterwards.
There was that big call at the end of the Raven’s Super Bowl
game. If the ref called “holding” the
Ravens might not have won that game - but then there were those other calls
that went against the Ravens.
If our movie or team doesn’t win or get the call, then we
But we don’t hear any boos for our judgments about how we
see people behave, how people dress, what people wear in church or on stage, where people sit
in church, or what have you. I know I’ve made lots of bad calls.
The title of this short homily is “On hearing the Boos.” I wanted to examine
our calls - our judgments - on others.
We haven’t walked in our neighbor’s shoes. And when we make a bad call on
someone, maybe we should have the courage to say, “I blew the call! I made a
And surprise, the more forgiving we become, the less judgmental we become, the more we
become like God. Ooops! I would also suspect - how unGodlike of me to be suspicious - that some people would boo me for saying that. Yet I suspect -
if we become that forgiving - that God like - others will knock the heck out of
us. Hey they judged Jesus and threw him out of the game by crucifying him.
Expect as much.
Reflecting on today's gospel, I would like to preach on the theme that to be human we need “Transfiguration Moments.” Or if that sounds esoteric, “We
human beings need mountain moments.”
By mountain moments, I mean peak experiences. I mean moments
when we are transfigured. I mean moments when we see who we are and/or who the
other person is in a transfigured way, in a transparent way.
In a transfiguration moment we see the big picture. We see
through everything and we see God. We are exalted. And because the moment is so
moving, we don’t want to move. We want to freeze the scene. We want to put it
in our scrapbook forever. However, as we heard in today’s gospel, that’s
unreal. We need to move on. We need to move ahead. We need to come down to earth and get back to the ordinary from the extraordinary.
"Trans" meaning across. We’ve heard the prefix in different
words: transportation; transaction; transfusion; transcribe;
transfer; transit; translate; transplant; transmission - and the big one in our Mass: transubstantiation.
Transfiguration moments are moments that take us out of
ourselves. They take us across time and space. They take us away from where we
are. They are peace moments. They are moments when we are in a trance.
I hope that everyone here at least once in their life was on
a mountain. I hope that everyone here had a chance sometime in their life to
climb a mountain. Well, at least in a car.... We’ve all seen cars with the bumper
sticker, “This car climbed Mt.Washington.”
If you are ever driving on an interstate or any highway -
stress on the high - and you see a sign saying, “Scenic Overview,” STOP!
It’s a chance to see the valleys.
Or maybe, you’ve been to New Hampshire
You drive along and you stop the car to
look out. “On a clear day you can see
forever.” “I’ve been to the mountain.”
We need mountain
moments. And as a result, we can say what the friends of Jesus say, “It’s good
to be here.”
We need mountain moments in our life. We need
transfiguration moments. To deal with the valley below. To deal with the
everyday. I’ve been to the mountain. To go to the mountain to see the big
picture. To see the whole picture. To see where we’ve been and where we are and
where we are headed. To see the map. To see our story.
So we need mountain moments. We need feast days. We need
anniversaries. We need high points. We need days off when we look back down and
around. We need Sabbaticals. We need Saturdays and Sundays: Sabbath. We need
time to get away from work, from TV, from noise, from everything, and be with
We need vacations.
We need back porches - empty houses for just me, myself, and I - long drives by
We need mountain moments.
When we see things from way up, small things seem smaller
and even big things seem small. Airplane views give us perspective. Altitude
affects attitude. Distance can give us depth.
So we need mountain moments to deal with our disintegration
and our integration. Mountain moments
can help us to see it all.
We need highs, so that we can deal with our lows.
We need to see the baby, first grandson or daughter
to help us to see that all the sacrifice is, has, and will be worth while.
We need graduation moments, marriage moments, retirement
parties, birthday parties, family and parish celebrations, to help us to see who we are and what we have done - that all the
work is worthwhile.
Mary’s moment was the Annunciation moment. She said “yes”
and she was transfigured. She was able to deal with the crosses that pierced
her heart. She understood in a flash, what it's all about.
She says at Cana to the
waiters, what the Father said at the Transfiguration, “Listen to him.”
We Redemptorists have often heard about our founder, St. Alphonsus’ Transfiguration moment. He was on vacation
for his health on the AmalfiCoast in Italy. In front of him was a
beautiful beach and perfect water. If he turned his back to the water and
looked up there was a mountain above him. He walked the almost 1000 steps ["scala"] up to a little village called,
“Scala” - just across from Ravello - and saw the rest of his life. He saw his dream job up
there: reaching out to preach Good News to poor goat herders - to those nobody was
reaching out to. Altitudes affect attitude. Heights can give us depth. Alphonsus’
life changed up on those heights. On a clear day, you can see forever. You can
become upbeat - and then come down a new person.
So we need mountain moments. To see the valley below. We
need transfiguration moments. So we can deal with Kedron and Gogatha and Calvary moments.
I’m assuming that death is a transfiguration moment. We will
see it all! We will know it all. Then we have all eternity to sort it out.
I say this because of what people say when they are in near
death situations: “My whole life passed before me!”
I’m assuming when we die, the top moments peak. They rise to
the top. They are transfiguration moments.
I still remember a moment from a late night talk show by
Johnny Carson. He had Bernard Bassett, the Jesuit, on the show that night.
Bernard said that when he died, he would want to see his dad first - because
the older he got, the more questions he had. Don’t we all?
I’m assuming moments like that are part of the moment called
“eternity”. We’ll meet Christ. And we’ll probably be like the disciples in today's gospel. We’ll
want to be there for ever!
Sometimes I picture death being like the airport experience.
When we are at an airport, we see people step back when
someone arrives and the family allows the most important person to see the
person who just arrived first. Husband,
wife, mom, dad. So too us, when we die
our parents will step back so we can meet Christ first. The Risen One, the
transfigured one, the high Christ and also the Valley Christ. The good shepherd
from the hills and the carpenter from the shop.
It’s like being in a plane. Everything comes into
perspective from up there.
A guy was on his first airplane flight. The guy next to him
asked, “Are you nervous?” He says, “Yeah, but what really amazes me is how small the people
down there are. They look like ants.” The other guy replied. “They are ants. We
haven’t taken off yet.”
In the meanwhile, we still have miles and miles to go before
we sleep as Robert Frost’s poem puts it, but it’s good to do some reflecting on all this and to have
a Transfiguration Moment now and then. Amen.
Quote for Today - February 24, 2013 "Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai "Ngaje Ngai," the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude." Ernest Hemingway [1899-1961], The Fifth Column and The First Forty-nine Stories . The Snows of Kilimanjaro, epigraph. Question: What are you seeking? Or as Hannibal Lecter keeps asking Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs : What do you see? What do you want? What do you desire? What do you covet?