Saturday, March 9, 2013




The title of my homily for this Saturday in the Third Week of Lent is, “It Takes Two To Pray!” 

At least 2.


If you want to grow in prayer one of the parables of Jesus to take into prayer is Luke 18:9-14 - the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. We just heard it read again today.

If we like to pray here or in the Eucharistic chapel, pray with Luke 18:9-14. Jesus will get into our mind and challenge us big time about prayer with this parable.  If we like to pray at home with the Bible, don’t forget the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

For starters the Pharisee is not praying. He’s one person show. Jesus shocks people with that truth. The Pharisee is all I, I, I, I, I, I.  I do this. I do this. I do that. And I don’t do that, that, and that.

Then Jesus talks about a second person in the parable, but it’s not God. It’s the Sinner, the publican, the tax collector, he must have spotted in the back of the temple on his way up front to be seen.

Joachim Jeremias in his book on The Parables of Jesus tells of a first century prayer AD that was found in the Talmud. Just listen to how familiar it is with the prayer of the Pharisee.[page 142]

“I thank you, O Lord, my God,
that you have given me my lot
with those who sit in the seat of learning,
and not with those  who sit at the street-corners.
I am early to work and they are early to work;
I am early to work on the words of the Torah,
and they are early to work on things of no moment.
I weary myself, and they weary themselves.
I weary myself and profit as a result,
while they weary themselves to no profit.
I run and they run;
I run towards the life of the Age to Come,
and they run towards the pit of destruction.”

How do we pray? Are we all alone in the temple of our brain - inwardly complaining about others in church - or inwardly giving ourselves all the glory.

So today’s gospel is a key parable to pray with if we want to grow in our prayer life.

Jesus uses a parable and he uses comparison to get us thinking.

The title of my homily is, “It Takes Two To Pray!”

The man in the back, the sinner, the publican, is aware of God being present - and he has a profound humility of himself in comparison.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m saying Mass I have to catch myself - not babbling, not reciting, not parroting, not being in the presence of God - but only myself.


It takes two to pray. It takes two to have a conversation. We all have been in conversations when the other is not talking to us - but talking at us - building herself or himself up - complaining about others - and the obvious message is: I’m better than these people. We know the feeling.

It’s deadly when a priest in the pulpit looks at his watch. It seems he’s just reciting his words to an empty church. It’s the same in conversations - when someone peeks at their watch  - and we sense they giving speeches at us - or talking to themselves.


Jesus is saying: “Hello! This happens in prayer.” So when praying begin with a few moments of quiet - Realize we’re with another - God. Hear God’s “Hello” before we announce ours. Amen. 

* Painting on top: Le pharisien et le publican - the Pharisee and the Publican [1886-1891] by James Tissot [1836-1902] - Brooklyn Museum

Quote for Today - March 9, 2013

"Verem essen toilerhait un deiges lebedikerhait."

"Worms eat you up when dead and worries eat you up alive."

Yiddish Proverb - from 1001 Yiddish Proverbs, edited by Fred Kogos

Question: Name the 10 top worries you have - that are squirming around inside of you - eating up your life energies?

Friday, March 8, 2013


Quote for Today - March 8, 2013

"The half-baked sermon causes spiritual indigestion."  

Austin O'Malley

Comment: O my God, I am partly sorry....."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Quote for the Day - March 7, 2013

"Frenzy, heresy, and jealousy, seldom cured."

English Proverb

Question: Agree or disagree?

Quote for Today - March 6, 2013

"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo."

H. G. Wells

Question: Do you agree with this statement?

Read Matthew 23 in light of this comment by H.G. Wells



The title of my homily for this Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent is, “A Life Skill Called ‘Forgiveness.’”


In my early thirties I used to play basketball once a week with a group of thirty-year old priests in the Archdiocese of New York Seminary. We were taking a two year course - one morning a week - on Pastoral Counseling and Spirituality. It was great. Updating ourselves in the morning and basketball after lunch.

We’d play 5 on 5, 4 on 4, 3 on 3. One day this guy Neil Connelly is guarding me. I have the ball and I’m standing there dribbling trying to see if I should drive, shoot, or pass the ball. While dribbling I noticed that Neil is not standing directly in front of me as is usual - but off to my right. While dribbling I said to him, “Why are you guarding me like that?” He laughed and said, “Because you can’t drive to your left.” I said, “What?” He says, “Yeah that was one of the first things we were taught in basketball. Find out if the other guy can go to his right and to his left - and guard him accordingly.”

At the age of 33 or 34 or so I learned I could not drive to my left.

Well, let me tell you, I practiced that after that. Never got good at it, but I practiced it over and over again - trying to get that skill.


The title of my homily is, “A Life Skill Called ‘Forgiveness.’”

If you got it, great. If you don’t have it,  work on it. Practice. Practice. Practice.

I met a Rabbi at a wedding once who asked me if I had read the Koran. I said, “No!”  He said, “You better.”

So I bought a Koran and read it - from cover to cover. I have to admit, I didn’t get it. I kept hoping there would be something in there that would grab me. I said to myself, “If this book is so important, there has to be something in here that’s enlightening.”

It didn’t happen to me.

Then I said, “Maybe it’s the translation. Maybe there is something great in here in Arabic - but I don’t have that skill.”

So nothing grabbed - except all the times it used the words “fire” and “burn”. I got a magic marker - an orange high lighter - and went through the whole Koran again and magic marked in orange the word “fire” or “burn” every time either appeared. Ugh too many times - too much violence.

Then I began to notice that there is a lot of destruction and violence in the Jewish and Christian scriptures as well. There is.

People get burned by people; people want to wipe people out. God is crushing armies and enemies. Ugh.

Then I began to notice how much in our scriptures there is to call for forgiveness - especially in families - in relationships - in both the Jewish and the Christian scriptures - brother with brother, father with son, but there is some sister stuff as well - but the document is heavily masculine and patriarchic. It’s up to us to translate it to deal with all our relationships especially  in our family.

If we listen to the scriptures and if we listen to people - every family needs the skill called “forgiveness” - not just 7 times, but 70 times and over and over again. We need this skill in dealing with others - with God - and in forgiving ourselves.


Today’s gospel - Matthew 18: 21-35 - is a powerful challenge to forgive and be forgiven - from the heart. That’s how Jesus put it in the last sentence in today’s gospel. Forgiveness includes brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, God and life - as well as ourselves - being able to go this way or that way with forgiveness - whatever it takes - difficult moves at times.  

Want to learn how to forgive and be forgiven - practice, practice, practice till the skill is our’s. Amen. Amen. Amen.


Quote for Today  March 5, 2013

"Love your neighbor, even when she plays the trombone."

Jewish Proverb

Monday, March 4, 2013



The title of my homily for this Monday of the Third Week of Lent is, “Open Up Your Eyes! It’s All Surprise!”

Every morning it’s nice to sit there, to pray there, and say to God, “I wonder what you have in store for me today!”

Every night it’s nice to sit there, to pray there, and say to God, “Now lets take a look at all the surprises I had today.”

That kind of a morning prayer and that kind of a night prayer - will open up our eyes, our minds, and our hearts, to all the surprises life offers us - that God puts on our plate for the day.


You can’t tell the book by the cover. You have to open it up and read the story. Expect surprises.

You can’t tell the other person by his or her skin, you have to meet them and greet them and be with them. Expect surprises.

I remember reading a long time ago about the 6 people in every marriage: the he, she thinks he is; the he, he thinks he is; the he, he really is; the she, he thinks she is; the she, she thinks she is; the she, she really is.

Besides that, people change.

Well, this morning I was looking up a quote to put on my blog - for a Quote for the Day, and I spotted the following quote by William James. “Whenever two people meet there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.”

I was wondering who realized that theory first - and who else said something like that 1000 or 2000 or 2500 years ago.


Today’s first reading - 2 Kings 5: 1-15b - has several characters: Naaman an army commander who had a skin disease,  his master the King of Aram, a little girl who was captured in a raid who became Naaman’s wife’s servant, Elisha the prophet in Israel, the king of Israel, and Naaman’s servants.  If this reading was being staged that would call for various actors - as well as animals, chariots, silver, gold and garments.

That’s a lot of people and the possibility of a lot of surprises in a story.

In today’s Gospel - Luke 4: 24-30 - the scene is Jesus and a lot of people in Jesus’ hometown synagogue. They are not going to accept Jesus as is. Jesus tells them about one of the great mysteries of life - that the Spirit of the Lord can come upon us and all kinds of surprising changes can result.  He tells the people about Elisha the Prophet healing a foreigner and Elijah the prophet taking care of a poor widow of  Zarephath in the land of Sidon.

Surprise! They are deaf. They are blind. They are imprisoned in their own inner prisons.

They can't believe that someone from their own town can be different than the way they see him to be.    Jesus has come back and he is different. They want the story to go their way. They have already written how the story should develop. Surprise. Life is the surprises.

The title of my homily is, “Open Up Your Eyes! It’s All Surprise!”

What a sad ending to today's gospel story. After planning on killing him - Jesus passes through their midst and went away. Their loss....

Surprise Naaman, the army commander, who has leprosy, can’t open up his eyes to the surprise on how life and healing can  happen for him. However, he changes. Unlike the people of Nazareth who want to throw Jesus off the cliff and out of their lives, Naaman finally opens his eyes and surprise his eyes are opened and his skin in healed.


Pray each day: morning, noon and night:  “Lord open up my eyes and my mind and my heart to your surprises today - not what I expect, not what I’m planning. When I meet the people I meet today - help me Lord to realize that they not to the person I think they are, but they are person they really are - and help me to enjoy the surprises!"

Quote for Today - March 4,  2013

"No one ever became extremely wicked all at once."

Decimus Juvenalis, Late 1st - early 2nd century A.D.

Question: Name something down deep that is part of you that is wicked. Describe to yourself how it has become you - it's creepy, crawly, history - gradually overtaking and becoming you. Then what happened?  Personal history is important to read.

Sunday, March 3, 2013



The title of my homily for this Third Sunday in Lent C, is, “The Fig Tree - Getting the Axe!”

Today’s gospel has two parts. Let me begin with Part 2


Part Two of today’s gospel from Luke 13: 1-9  has the parable of the fig tree. [Cf. verses 6-9]

In the gospels we hear about the fig tree three    times. I like Luke’s version far better than Matthew and Marks telling of the story. [Cf. Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:13]

In Matthew and Mark the fig tree gets the axe. It disappears. There is no second chance. It’s not producing figs. Get rid of it. In Matthew and Mark,  it’s not a parable. It’s an incident that happened in the life of Jesus - that made it into print - for some profound and mysterious reason. It must have had impact on those who experienced Jesus cursing and making a singular fig tree just dry up.

In Luke the story has become a parable. In Luke the fig tree gets another year. It gets  a second chance to produce fruit - figs - otherwise - then - it will get the axe.

The owner of the fig tree says to the gardener, “For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. [So] cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?”

Did you hear the word “exhaust” as in “exhaust the soil”?  What a neat translation of the Greek word “katargei”. Other translations into English use the word “waste” or “use up”.

I was trying to get a handle on this - how we think and talk about this same experience.

Wouldn’t we hate to overhear someone describing us behind our back with one of these comments:
·        “He’s just taking up space”?
·        Or “What a waste!”
·        Or, “She’s so lazy, she exhausts me!”
·        Or, “He’s a couch potato! A lump! He doesn’t do   anything around here”?

Why do people get the axe?  Why do people get the boot? Why do people lose their job? Why do some marriages fall apart?

Sometimes - and I’m underlining sometimes - sometimes  it’s because people are lazy. They are just taking up space. They are taking up all the oxygen as someone put it.

And sometimes people get the axe - get fired - get dumped -  get dropped - and it’s not their fault.

Sometimes life is fair; sometimes life isn’t fair; sometimes life is all mystery - to be figured out at a later date - sometimes.

So all this is an, “It all depends!”


In Part 1 of today’s gospel we have two examples of tragedies that happen. Unlike the lazy fig  tree that should be getting the axe, Jesus says what happened to some folks was not their fault.

We better not let  the two incidents in today’s gospel - that of the Galileans who were slaughtered by Pilate and that of those who died when a tower collapsed on them in Siloam - we better not let these two incidents slip through the cracks of our consciousness. They are worth pondering.

Lots of people think God zaps people - and then think it’s because of their sins. Jesus says those Galileans whom Pilate wiped out  - were no greater sinners that the rest of the people in Galilee. Then Jesus adds, “Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!”

But Jesus does add, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

There’s the possible message coming out of tragedies. They can be wake up calls - for necessary changes in our lives.

Listen to people and their take on why people die in plane crashes or why people are blown up in a bus in Bagdad - or people who die in natural disasters - or why people get cancer and so and so doesn’t - or why someone loses a job or a spouse or a kid for what seems no reason whatsoever?

Sometimes we don’t know why tragedy crushes certain people. Sometimes it seems people just  happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sometimes a body goes berserk - breaks down - and someone dies - before the time we’d expect them to die. And some people go crazy with guns and some people go crazy with power - and the little people get hurt or killed.  Bummer.

As we know from life and from Forest Gump and bumper stickers, “It happens!”


So a message is that tragedies can be wake up calls. Sometimes it’s our fault. Sometimes it isn’t.

Having read today’s gospel and today’s readings a bunch of times these past few days, I sense  “Wake Up!” is a key and a basic call from today’s Gospel as well as today’s other readings.

Today’s second reading from 1st Corinthians says just that in various ways. Paul says things like: “I don’t want you to be unaware.” “Do not grumble. Death happens.”  “Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” [Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12]

Today’s first reading from Exodus has the example of Moses.  He has married Jethro’s daughter. He has become a shepherd. He’s leading a flock across the desert. He comes to a mountain. He has a God experience. Surprise. He’s sees a bush on fire. He discovers he’s on Holy Ground. He experiences a God call.  He discovers who God is. God simply says, “I Am Who Am”.[Cf. Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15]

Moses hears the most basic explanation of who a person is: “I Am Who Am!”

I am not my stuff. I’m not my titles. I’m not my look. “I Am Who Am!”

I’m sure all of us somewhere have had a Moses like God experience: seeing a burning sunrise or sunset - autumn leaves bursting with color - the birth of a child - the love of one’s life - being at the death of a parent with the family all around - being together for a family wedding or 25th or 50th anniversary - being at Mass or a baptism or a wedding. When we realize the simplicity of life, when we realize God has created and redeemed us all - when we realize we are who we are and God is the great, “I Am Who Am” - when we realize these things we realize we’re made in the image and likeness of God!


God experiences can’t be planned. We have them at times - if we’re awake and aware.  The test that it’s real and not all feeling is when we hear in the moment, in the experience, a call from God. It’s the most basic vocation in life: to be God - to become God - in this life - and not just in the next.

Surprise - Christmas can happen any day now - for us. Christ chooses smelly stables and dark caves - to be born in - again and again and again.

We come to Mass - because we know down deep - we want deeper communion with God - and Jesus came to bring us into the Trinity.

But we don’t just stand there - on the holy ground of  a God experience.

We don’t just glow in the middle of that burning flaming moment - nope - the call is not to just be me - a fig tree - but we’re called to be a fig tree - that gives fruit - gifts to others.

When we do that we’re more and more like God - being creative and feeders - redeemers - helpers to others - especially the stuck.

When we do that we have become a person who is like God - and people meeting us can have a God Experience - because we’re using  the gifts we’ve been given to create a better world in loving and feeding one another.

Otherwise we’re just taking up space. Otherwise get the axe. 

Quote for Today - March 3,  2013

"The heron's a saint when there are no fish in sight."

Bengalese Proverb