Saturday, April 6, 2013


Quote for April 6,  2013

"I gave in, and admitted that God was God."

C. S. Lewis - "On relinquishing atheism at age 31 in 1929, quoted by William Griffin, Clive Staples Lewis, Harper and Row, 1986" on page 190 of Webster's II, New Riverside Desk Quotations, James B. Simpson, Home and Office Edition.


The title of my homily for this Easter Friday is, “What Have You Caught?”

Someone sees someone getting out of their car or coming off a pier or a boat with a fishing rod in hand and they ask, “Caught anything?”

People turn on TV or their computer or phone - in mid-morning and/or 4 in the afternoon to see how their stocks are going or went that day.  “Caught anything?

People come home from work to each other and say, “How was your day?”

People come home from golf and someone says, “How did you do?”


In today’s gospel story - John 21: 1-14 -  Jesus is standing on the shore of the lake and they think he’s gone forever - and they were fishing all through the night - and he yells out, “Have you caught anything to eat?”

And they tell him, “Nothing! We have fished the whole night long and caught nothing!”

And Jesus tells them to cast their nets over the right side of their boats and they do and catch a lot of fish.

At that they realized it was Jesus - the Lord!

And they come to shore with their catch - 153 fish to be exact - and they see Jesus there with bread and fish on a charcoal fire - and the celebration begins.

They have recaught Jesus - whom they had considered the catch of their lives.


They were fishermen. Jesus was a carpenter.

In the beginning of the gospels Jesus caught the first four of his disciples at the shore: Peter and Andrew, James and John and told them from now on you’ll be catching people.

Fish - became the early Christian symbol: Christians here.

Fish - in Greek IXTHUS - I standing for Jesus -  There is no J in Greek - X for CHRISTOS - Christ,  the Anointed one - TH standing for Theos in Greek - the word for God - becoming Deus  in Latin - the word for God - becoming Deity in English or God - U - for UIOS - Son - and S for SOTER - Savior.

Fish - IXTHUS - seen today on many cars. This person is a Christian - or trying to be a follower of Jesus.


There are three scenes in the gospels about “What have you caught?” 

In Matthew 13: 47-48 - Jesus tells about the kingdom of heaven being like someone who throws their net into the sea and they catch all sorts of stuff. Then they sit on the shore and pick out the good stuff - and put it in a basket - and the stuff not wanted is put on a pile to burn.

In Luke 5: 1-11 we have the call of Simon Peter - who is washing his nets at his boat at the Lake of Gennesaret. Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and tells him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then Jesus preaches to the crowd from Simon’s boat. Then after speaking,  Jesus tells Simon to launch out into the deep waters and lower his nets for a catch.

And Simon says that they had been working hard all night long and have caught nothing - but he adds, "At your command I’ll do it."

He does and  their nets were tearing because of all the fish they caught. They called to their partners for help and they filled the other boat - along with his own boat - till they were in danger of sinking.

At that Peter says to Jesus - "Depart from me for I am a sinful man."

And Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you’ll be catching people.”

Our first pope happened that day!

The third story was today’s gospel: the Resurrection Repeat of that second story


Down, down, down deep in the deepest part of the lake called my soul - every human being thinks about this question: "What Have I Caught?" What Have I Done With My Life?

If we make it to old age - that question sits there on the shore of our life.

If we are a Christian - we might fear Jesus at the last Judgment looking at our life: what have you done with your life? Are you a sheep or a goat? Have you loved your brothers and sisters? Have you fed the hungry? Have you visited the sick? [Cf. Matthew 25:31-46.]

We know, we have heard, the gospel stories about how nice Jesus is - how forgiving is the Father of the Prodigal Son. We know of God’s unconditional love and understanding of us poor suckers - poor sinners - but down deep - that fear question lingers at our lake.

What have I caught?

We know we go into eternity - naked as we came into this life.

We go without net worth, size of house, number of children, name of car, degrees, where we’ve been, whom we met?

We go with an empty feeling - an uh oh! feeling.


Albert Camus once wrote something that hits me at the age of 73. “I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day.”  [The Fall (La Chute), 1956].


Erik Erikson is famous for his 8 Stages of Life.  I’m sure many of you studied them in college or read about them somewhere. They are really worth studying at any time.

The first stage of life is very significant. The little baby, the little child, their first task in life is to learn Basic Trust. When I cry, I’m held. When I’m afraid,  mommy or daddy are right there as my strong support. The opposite is Basic Mistrust. Imagine going through the whole of life with the inability to trust anyone?  I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard several times the statement, “The bigger the problem,  the earlier the problem.” 

I’ve also heard the comment:  "If you want to heal someone, you have to start with their grandmother."

Thank God for grandparents who sometimes make up for horrors in the minds of little children.

Erikson’s other stages really hit me - but the 8th, the one I’m in now, really hits me.

It’s Ego Integrity vs. Despair.

When I look at my life - as I walk my old age walks - or when I sit in my chair at the wedding banquet and see all  those young people and old people dancing the Chicken Dance - or what have you - I ask Shakespeare’s question: what stands for my life? What have I done? [Cf. Sonnet 2]

I love Jesus right there - he says we can enter the garden at the last hour. He tells the thief on the cross he can come into paradise with Jesus that Friday - so it really is a good Friday.

Looking at today’s gospel,  I hear Jesus saying, "Lower your nets into your life - and see what you have caught?"  Some good stuff and some bad stuff.

Celebrate a meal with Jesus enjoying the Good Stuff of one’s life. Celebrate with fish and bread. Even if we have caught nothing or very little,  Jesus will feed us.

Do we believe that?

I do!

Friday, April 5, 2013


Quote for Today - April 5, 2013

"Magnificently unprepared
For the long littleness of life."

Frances Cornford [1886-1960], Rupert Brook [1915]

Question: Am I?

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Quote for Today - April 4,  2013

"Once the realization 
is accepted
that even between 
the closest human beings
infinite distances continue to exist,
a wonderful living side by side
can grow up, 
if they succeed in living 
the distance between them
which makes it possible
for each to see the other
whole against the sky."

Rainer Maria Rilke [1875-1926], Letters, translated by Jane Barnard Green and M.D. Herter Norton

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Quote for Today - April 3,  2013

"The risen Christ, when he shows himself to his friends, takes on the countenance of all races and each can hear him in his own tongue."  

Henri de Lubac [1896-1991], Catholicism, 1927

Linocut [1960], "He Liveth" Oseloka  O. Osadebe

Quote for the Day - Tuesday April 2, 2013

"The Lord God is subtle, but malicious he is not."

Albert Einstein,  [1879-1955], Inscription in Fine Hall, Princeton New Jersey

Picture: God Is Love from The Raw Canvas Gallery

Quote for the Day - April 1, 2013

"My unhappiness was the unhappiness of a person who could not say no."

Dazai Osamu Tsushima Shuji [1909- 1948]

Poster October 2001

Sunday, March 31, 2013



The title of my homily for this Easter Sunday Mass is, “Styrofoam Cup.”

Easter Sunday has a lot of energy - so I figured I have to catch your energy attention quickly - because like the disciples in today’s gospel - we’re all on the run - sometimes physically, sometimes mentally. So like Father Tizio, our pastor, I looked for a prop. He’s the best I’ve seen using props to catch people’s attention. So I grabbed this Styrofoam cup.  What I want to say - is like a conversation at a coffee break more than at a conversation called a “homily” or a sermon.

So I have here a Styrofoam cup. [Hold it up!] It's iinteresting material. There are billions and billions of these thrown away each day. Styrofoam cups - just sit there in landfills - and will be there for hundreds and hundred of years to come.

The title of my homily is, “Styrofoam Cup.”


A speaker at an annual invention and gadget convention in Las Vegas a few years back asked a question in his talk, “What was the greatest invention in the 20th Century? Was it the computer, the microwave oven, the cell phone, the computer chip, the bar code, polio vaccine, etc. etc. etc.?”  

Then he said, “It was the Styrofoam cup.” That caught people’s attention - who might have been looking off to the side or thinking about something else in their mind or they were looking at pictures of amazing gadgets in brochures they picked up at the convention. Various folks like to pick up a bulletin before Mass - just in case the homily isn’t so hot. 

Then he said holding a Styrofoam cup in the air, [Hold cup in hand - as a prop!] “Why is this the greatest invention of the 20th Century? Well you put a cold drink in it and it keeps it cold. You put a hot drink in it and it keeps it hot. [Pause] How does it know?”

I don’t remember where I read that. I’ve never forgotten it - and thought, “Someday I’ll use that in a sermon, but how?”


Now something about this particular Styrofoam cup. [Hold it up again!] It was a Thursday evening - in a small parish on the Ohio River - right across from West Virginia. Another priest and I had just finished preaching a Parish Mission. On the last night of a parish mission there was always a social with cookies and punch, brownies and coffee or tea.

I’m standing there talking to this guy who told me the following story. A young girl was going to Potomac State College in West Virginia and she wasn’t doing too well. In fact, her marks were all in the failure zone. The academic dean called her in and asked her, “Why are you here?” Immediately she answered, “I came here to be went with, but I ain’t been went with yet.”

I said, “Great story!” Then I found myself  looking for something to write it down on. That’s when I grabbed this Styrofoam cup and asked the man to tell the story again and I wrote it on this cup. “I came here to be went with, but I ain’t been went with yet.”

I’m glad I wrote this on this Styrofoam cup - because if it was on a napkin or a piece of paper, it would have disappeared a long time ago. I brought this cup home and it was on a book shelf in my room in my last assignment in Lima, Ohio for a couple of years. Then it went on my shelf here in Annapolis. I always had the idea, I’ll use it in a homily some day. But how?

The title of my homily is, “Styrofoam Cup.”


In the movie, A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson - as Colonel Nathan R. Jessep -  is being questioned in the court room by Lt. Junior Grade Daniel Kaffee - a young navy lawyer - played by Tom Cruise.

There is a pause - just before the most important moment in the movie when Jack Nicholson says to the young lawyer Kaffee, “Now, are these the questions I was really called here to answer? Phone calls and foot  locker?  Please tell me that you have something more, Lieutenant. These two Marines are on trial for their lives. Please tell me their lawyer hasn’t pinned their hopes to a phone bill."

Pause! There is another significant pause right then and there. Colonel Nathan R. Jessep - Jack Nicholson - steps down and the young lawyer, Danny Kafee says, “I’m not finished yet.” It hit’s Colonel Jessep button as he is told to go back to his seat in the box. It’s then that Tom Cruise hits Jack Nicholson with the big question - whether he ordered a Code Red or not - that these two men on trial were ordered to punish PFC William Santiago - who dies in the punishment.

That scene before that last comment challenges me big time - not every time - but many times - because I can sometimes hear people in church saying, “Don’t tell me you brought me into church on Easter Sunday morning to talk about Styrofoam cups - and a joke about something someone said in a Las Vegas convention. Tell me you have something more than that?

Pause -  long pause………………….


I do.

It’s the question: who do you fill your life with?

[Gesture with Styrofoam cup!] Who do you fill the cup of your life with?

What do you fill the cup of your life with?

Much of the stuff we spend our time and life with will end up - lasting for hundreds of years buried in a landfill.

Question: Will we and the people we have spent our lives with end up buried in some landfill called a grave  - and that’s it. Is our life story simple: born, lived, died, buried - with a stone that marks the spot? Is that all there is?

Question repeated: We spend our life - here, there, and everywhere - and then we’re buried like a Styrofoam cup in a landfill. Is that all there is? 

Here is where we lawyer preachers better do a good job in this courtroom called church - to convince you the jury - about what’s what.

Here is where this speaker at this gadget invention and convention world - better speak up on what’s the best buy for you to make in this life.

Jesus came to us to be went with. Have we went with him yet?

Jesus came to Mary and Joseph. He came to Peter, Andrew, James and John, Martha and Mary - and Mary of Magdala - and many others.

Some  went with him as a great teacher - and some followed him because of his miracles. But check it out: in the end - when Jesus was being crucified there on Calvary, where were they - all those people who had been following him? Mary, his mother, John, a few others, and Mary of Magdala - as we heard in today’s gospel were there. But where were the others?

The Book of Revelation - chapter 3 - has a very scary answer about where the others are. They have become like lukewarm coffee in a Styrofoam cup - just sitting there doing nothing - ready to be tossed out.  Have you ever picked up your Styrofoam cup of coffee and it's "uuh" and you spit it out - if you're alone and near a sink? Maybe Styrofoam cups are not the greatest invention of the 20th century. The author of Revelation writes, "The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God's creation, says this: 'I know your works; I know that your are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."

Question: when it comes to Jesus are you hot or cold or lukewarm?

Question: as the old Negro Spiritual put it? “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they put him in the tomb? Were your there when they put him in the tomb? Sometimes it makes me wonder, wonder, wonder, were you there …. when…?

We are here because we believe Jesus rose from the dead. We are here because we want to walk with him alive - that he is filling the cup of our life.

We are here because we want to come to church and meet him like Mary of Magdala met him that Easter Sunday morning - and she discovered him alive - thinking at first he was a gardener.

Today’s gospel is very interesting. It’s all about surprise!  It has a surprise ending - a Son Rise ending. The tomb was not the end - but the beginning. The church is not a tomb - it’s a beginning.

In today’s gospel from John,  this Mary of Magdala is the featured discoverer that the tomb is the empty. Jesus was buried in Chapter 19 of John. Chapter 20 begins with Mary of Magdala - of all people - going to the tomb. It’s empty. She runs to Peter and the other disciple - the beloved disciple - usually considered John - but it doesn’t say that. They run to the tomb. The other disciple runs faster and gets there first, but waits for Peter.

There’s a message there.

He lets Peter go in first - but the beloved disciple is the first to believe.

There’s a message there.

Some think the beloved disciple is  John. Some think it’s any person who falls for Jesus - who “went withs” Jesus - who believes in Jesus - and rises with Jesus.

It’s funny that those who put together our scripture readings don’t give us on any Sunday of the year reading -  the next scene in Chapter 20 of John. Peter and the other disciples go home. John Chapter 20: 11-18 - has this great story of Mary of Magdala hangs around. She sees someone outside the tomb. She thinks it’s a gardener. It’s Jesus who calls Mary by name. She experiences Jesus in a one to one relationship. She embraced Jesus with a great hug, a great embrace. Come to church this Tuesday morning you’ll hear the reading, but it doesn’t make it for a Sunday reading.

Why? I don’t know.


I think the question that the gospels are asking us is the same question the academic dean asked that girl who was failing at Potomac State College, “Why are you here?”

And adding one word, I think the answer many of us give is the answer that girl gave back to the dean, “I came here to be went with God and I ain’t been went with yet.”

The Easter message and Easter hope is that we all meet up with Jesus Christ here and we then go with him into our life - into our work - into our relationships - and we no longer feel like a failure - but a person alive - knowing we live here and hereafter. We have discovered Jesus is not a mere Styrofoam cut out figure - who died and was buried - some 2000 years ago. Nope we are those who believe he is risen - alive - and walking with people called Christians - who are going with him.  We believe He is God amongst us. Alleluia. Alleluia. 

Quote for Today - Easter Sunday - March 31,  2013

"Easter means - 
hope prevails over despair.
Jesus reigns as Lord of Lords,

         and King of Kings.
Oppression and injustice and suffering
can't be the end of the human story.
Freedom and justice,
peace and reconciliation,
are his will for all of us,
black and white,
in this land and throughout the world.
Easter says to us

that despite everything to the contrary,
his will for us will prevail,
love will prevail over hate,
justice over injustice and oppression,
peace over exploitation and bitterness."

Bishop Desmond Tutu, Crying in the Wilderness, 1982