The title of my homily for this Friday in the 3rd
Week of Easter is, “Three Moments.”
It's not written anywhere, but I would think it would be safe to say that most people look
at their life as moments - key moments, significant moments, defining moments.
These are the moments we wonder about - consider, reconsider
- and talk to ourselves about - and sometimes share with others.
I haven’t done my homework on this - so I don’t know whether
the majority of key life moments are negative or positive. I would assume that the answer to that would
depend on the person - and their history - as well as their attitude and their
angles on life.
So before I begin with 3 key moments in today’s 2 readings -
here are a few questions that ought to be considered. Do some homework. Answer
What was the most defining moment in your life? Falling in
love? Meeting so and so? A death? The
accident? The hurt? A God experience?
To get at that: what would be the ten most significant
moments in your life? Then put them in order of importance or pick
the top 3 moments and then THE defining moment of one’s life.
If possible, ask a spouse or best friend who knows you - or
a close family member - but it must be a very significant person - and do this
one to one. Have them list what they think is your most significant or key or
defining moments - and a good way to get at this is to have them list 10 - and
then put them in order of importance.
Do this for them as well - if possible - feasible - and doable.
THREE MOMENTS IN TODAY’S SCRIPTURES
First moment: what was it like for Saul [who becomes Paul] to be at the killing by stoning of Stephen. Then to be on the hunt to rid Judaism of these
Christians - and then what was it like to be knocked to the ground, blinded,
hear voices, and to discover one is totally wrong in one’s assumptions about
life and God?
Was that the most significant moment in Paul’s life? Was that his moment - when
he felt knocked to the ground. He hits bottom. He discovers, “I’m totally
wrong.” It might have been his moment - because we hear about it several times
in the scriptures: here in Acts 9: 1-20, next in Acts 15, and also in Galatians
Second moment: what was it like to be “Ananias - who was
told to go to Damascus, to go to Straight Street, to
ask at the house of a man named Judas for a man from Tarsus - named Saul and lay your hands on him
so that he will be healed of his sight.
Was that the most significant moment in the life of Ananias?
It’s basically the only one we know of. Was he talking about that moment for
the rest of his life - especially the more Saul whom become Paul became famous?
Third moment: what was it like to have been sitting there in
the synagogue in Capernaum
and hear Jesus tell the crowd that we need to eat him up - to eag Jesus' flesh
- to drink his blood - to chew - to digest his life into our life - to become
What would it have been like to have heard that message that day? Did anyone of those present get this message and then follow Jesus?
Answers to these questions would be extremely valuable for
us who are in this synagogue, this gathering place, this church today - we who
will be receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood in communion in about 15 minutes. Amen.
The title of my homily for this Tuesday in the Third Week of
Easter is, “Hunger and Thirst! The Reality and the Metaphor.”
The last sentence in today’s gospel is, "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever
believes in me will never thirst.'” [John 6:35]
We all know the reality of hunger and thirst.
How many times have we said, “I’m starving!”? How many
times have we said, “I’m thirsty!?” Or "I’m famished!"
I remember when I used to backpack in New Hampshire as well as Colorado. After hiking all day, we'd be starving that night. Colorado was the toughest - because for 12 days we’d only have freeze dry food - the food we were carrying in our backpacks. So on the way back - once we got to our car - we’d head for Burger King or any food place - way before even a shower.
When was the last time we said, "I'm hungry" or "I'm thirsty?"
Would the greatest torture be to starve people?
We all know the Greek Myth of Tantalus . He had to suffer the eternal
punishment of standing in a pool of water - and every time he wants water - it
recedes. And above his head is a low lying branch with delicious fruit on it -
and every time he reaches for some fruit to eat - the branches would go higher. Bummer. From
Tantalus we get the word, “tantalize”.
Life is tantalizing - we hunger and thirst - and sometimes we discover
nothing ever really satisfies us.
The story of Tantalus moves us to the metaphor of being hungry or thirsty.
In watching the Orioles this year, I hear Jim Palmer, Mike
Bordick, Gary Thorn, Rick Dempsey, and Tom Davis saying, “The Orioles didn’t
win it all last year, but they got a taste of victory. That should make them do
better this year. They should be hungrier.”
There’s that metaphor: hunger and thirst.
If a team loses year after year after year, players give up
sooner. They lose the desire, the dream, they had as little kids to make it to
the top. If a player on the bench gets a chance to play - because someone is injured - and if they
are hungry - there’s the opening - to show what one has.
If you remember the movie, The Natural, Roy Hobbs tells Iris, his childhood dream that was cut
short, “I wanted to be the best. I wanted to walk down the street and kids
would see me and they’d say, ‘There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.’”
Now that’s hunger. That’s thirst.
MAKE A LIST OF THE
BASIC HUNGERS AND THIRSTS
Make a list - of the human hungers - the human thirsts.
I preached a whole sermon on this just two Sundays a go - on
this very theme - but I used the word “intent”. What’s my intent in life?
It’s one’s desire. It’s one’s passion. It’s one’s hope. It’s
one hunger and thirst.
It takes a lot of living. It takes a lot of ups and downs.
It takes a lot of failures. It takes a lot of successes - in life - to discover
oneself - to figure out that the hunger and the thirst for food, for money, for
fame, for name, help or seem to help at times, but down deep they never really
satisfy the deepest desires and fires, hungers and thirsts - of the human heart.
I heard in several AA retreats - which I used to give - an
alcoholic saying, “I was looking for God at the bottom of a bottle - and God
was never there. And it took a lot of bottles and a lot of drinks to discover
It takes a lot of experimenting - and emptying - to discover
that our deepest hungers and thirsts - are only satisfied with persons - not
things - not stuff - even if we get stuffed with plenty of stuff. It’s always
The deepest happiness is always family - friends - spouse -
children, grandchildren - and hopefully parents - especially when we can sit
down with each other as adults - and share what our mom and dad what they
learned, what happened to them - what they were about - back then - and we
didn’t grasp it till now - and then in our turn to do that with our children -
and then as grandparents - to complete the circles of life.
Down deep we’re all like kids with a box of broken crayons
figuring it all out. With sit there with our paper on the floor or on the
kitchen table - figuring.
The two key areas - circles of life - that Greg Pierce - a
writer in Chicago
- said are: relationships and work. That’s where we spend the time of our lives
with. Work can be great - but in a way
it stinks if we can’t share what we’re doing with each other.
Relationships then gives us glimpses of God. Relationships
can bring us to God.
Then the day dawns on us that God has to be relationships.
Relationships are all about hungers and thirsts.
Relationships give us glimpses with what Christianity came
up with - God is Trinity - a Trinity of Persons. Who else could God be?
Christianity proclaims that God is a 3 way relationship -
and then a 4 way relationship.
Three - God in God.
Four - God with us.
Three - so united - they are one. And we two’s, threes,
fours, family, community, team, friendships, groups, when we are one - it’s
then we can catch God - eat God - be in communion with God - and taste God at
So it’s no wonder Jesus becomes food - because that’s a glimpse of our hunger
and thirst for people - for relationships- to be all one in communion. Isn’t
that why we’re here right here, right now? We’re here to sip and bite into God
- who satisfies our hungers and our thirsts. Amen.
The title of my homily for this Monday in the Third Week
after Easter is, “Perception and Reality.”
At times I want to do a little more thinking on the question
of “Perception and Reality” - but it’s my perception of myself that I don’t seem
to be doing it.
When I read today’s readings that’s the theme that hit me -
so I said to myself, here’s a chance to
do a tiny bit more homework on this question.
Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 6:8-15] features Stephen. Some perceive
him as a trouble maker - others see his face - as today’s first reading ends -
as that of the face of an angel. He was
loved and he was hated.
The reality is: he’s Stephen - one of the early followers of
Christ - the first to die as an adult for his faith.
Today’s gospel - John
6:22-29 - has this theme of perception and reality in bold form. Jesus tells the
crowd that they are after him because of the food he’s providing - and not
because of who he was: the Son of Man - who has the seal of God the Father’s
approval on him.
The gospel of John -
as I perceive it - features this issue of perception and reality over and over
again. People are constantly not getting it. People are constantly missing the
points that Jesus makes.
They are catching perceptions - but Jesus is after reality.
PERCEPTION AND REALITY
So the title of my homily is, “Perception and Reality”.
I have found myself saying inwardly to the leaders of our
church: “You don’t get it. You don’t get it. You don’t get it. Perception is
In the child and teenage abuse cases - the perception of so
many people is that you have not done your job. The perception is that you have
hidden lots of stuff. The perception is that you don’t care about the children
- only yourselves.
Then the leaders and/or their spokespersons say, “That’s not
fair. We have done this, this and this. That’s the reality.”
And I say inwardly, “It doesn’t make any difference what the
reality is - because the perception is that you blew it.”
I have found myself saying inwardly many times: “Perception
As I thought about all this for this homily today, I found
myself thinking: “It would be better to say, ‘Perception is reality - even when
it’s not reality.’”
Upon further thinking it hit me that obviously the best
thing to do is to work on realities and then see if they change people’s
perceptions. In other words, perceptions are out of the bishop’s hands.
Realities can be change.
WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?
My perception on hearing all this would be to say, “What are
you talking about?” It seems that you’re all babble. You’re all jargon. Hurry
up. I got things to get to after Mass and my perception is that you’re just up
there talking away. You’re getting off stuff that I’m not getting or I’m elsewhere or you’re not
So here’s an attempt at clarity….
Take as an example a priest who comes from a rich family. His
parents give him an $100,000 Mercedes. I
would think he would be wise to drive a Chevy Malibu - or a cheaper car -
because the perception is that Jesus would not drive a Mercedes - but a donkey.
And some might wonder where the money is coming from …. or you shouldn’t be a
priest and travel in this style.
Bishops wear these expensive or “odd” outfits. The
perception is that they are in this for the glory. The reality is that Jesus died on the cross
with nothing or with nothing but a loin cloth on.
The reality is that we don’t know why someone is into this
religious style mode. Personally I think they are nuts to wear all these
strange expensive outfits etc. In my opinion it doesn’t help their reality. But I perceive others don’t think the way I
I think these thoughts - but by mouthing them - people might
perceive me as a complainer or what have you - and want to stone me to death
like they did Stephen when he spoke up.
I’m very happy now with Pope Francis. At present, the
perceptions are that he’s interested in simplifying, simplifying, simplifying.
John the 23 went that way - and the opposite - the
extravagant - had come back. That’s my
In my opinion, the glitter and the glamour can get in the way of the reality of
I like it when the founder of the Redemptorists, St.
Alphonsus, was made a bishop, he went very simple. For example, as bishop he
was given a few rings and things - and they went the way of donations. We were
told the stone in his ring was simply broken glass. He was strongly against
elaborate meals, beds, carriages, and what have you. He said, “St Peter the
first pope - he didn’t have a carriage.”
Yet he did see a carriage would get him to places faster
than on foot - so it better be a borrowed or a cheap carriage. 
This pope knows the life of St. Francis and these saints -
so I’m optimistic that he’ll cut the stuff that Jesus cut - and the saints cut.
That would be my way with dealing with perceptions.
The reality better be the reality that Jesus, the gospel, and people must come
first - especially the poor.
Otherwise just as ostentation and classy stuff can be
deception - so too simplicity.
The bottom line is reality.
God, neighbor, self.
Birth, death, eternity.
Love of God and love of neighbor.
PICTURES On top: Habit of St. Francis of Assisi Next: A Bishop in cappa magna. Next: Christ on the cross by Rembrandt Next: Cardinal Burke in red. NOTES:
 Theodule Rey-Mermet, St.
Alphonsus Liguori, Tireless Worker for the Most Abandoned, New City press, 206 Skillman Ave, Brooklyn,
[The following is a story for this morning's Kids' Mass - 3rd Sunday after Easter - C.]
The third grade teacher, Mrs. Bridlepath, wasn’t surprised
when Theodore said,he wanted to be an ichthyologist
when he grew up.
The principal was visiting Mrs. Bridlepath’s third grade
classroom, so to impress the principal, she asked the kids to tell what they
wanted to be when they grew up.
Once more 11 of the 26 kids in the third grade - said they
planned on becoming veterinarians. Once more those 11 were all girls. The boys said
they were going to be football players, lacrosse players, engineers, U.S Navy
Seals, Nascar Drivers, etc. It was then that, Theodore said his dream was to become an ichthyologist.
At a coffee break Mrs. Bridlepath and the principal, Mrs.
Thistle were talking about Theodore. “Interesting choice” said Mrs. Thistle the
principal, “but just what is an ichthyologist?”
“Oh,” said Mrs. Bridlepath, the third grade teacher, “it’s a
person who knows and studies all about fish.”
Mrs. Bridlepath added - that every summer Theodore’s parents
try to take Theodore and his older sister Teresa, who wants to be a soccer
player, to a different aquarium. Mrs. Bridlepath added, “I didn’t know there
were so many different aquariums around the country.” She only knew of the one
in Baltimore, CamdenNew
Jersey and the one in New York at
Coney Island. Now she knew, because of
Theodore, there over 100 of them, and he hoped to see all of them before he hit
21 years of age.
Mrs. Bridlepath told the principal: “That’s all he’s really
Theodore had a small fish tank - that held 20 gallons of
water in his room - and a big tank - that held 55 gallons of water in their
basement. “Watching the fish in there,” Theodore said, “was better than
watching people on a big screen TV.”
Theodore used five dollar or twenty dollar bills he got from
aunts and uncles - grandmas and grandfathers - to buy tropical fish for his
He knew all there was to know about fish in his brain - and
in large collection of books about fish in his room.
As he grew up - teachers tried to get him to think outside
of the fish tank - telling him there were many other careers and jobs he could
However, Theodore’s mind was made up - quoting statistics
about the world being 71% water and that there were over 30,000 different
species of fish. He said there were jobs for ichthyologists in food industries,
marine biology, aquariums, and in teaching, etc. etc. etc.
Time went on. Theodore’s regular name switched to Teddy for
most people. He got to love sports - and studies in other stuff than fish - but he kept his dream alive to be
an ichthyologist. He still loved to visit aquariums and read up about fish. He
loved to surf the waves at the ocean as well - becoming very good at that as well.
His sister Teresa - Teri - became a violinist - and now
plays for the Boston Symphony Orchestra - is married - and she and her husband
Tom have 4 kids - one of whom has a small fish tank - with 4 gold fish - and he
too says when he grows up, “I am going to become an ichthyologist.”
Theodore - or Teddy - didn’t become an ichthyologist.
Surprise. He became a priest - to the surprise of everyone. Mrs. Bridlepath and
Mrs. Thistle went to his first Mass. Mrs. Bridlepath didn’t say, “I always knew he’d be a
priest.” Mrs. Thistle said, “I thought he was going to be a - what was that
word again, “An ichthyologist” said Mrs. Bridlepath.
Then in his first Mass sermon they found out what happened.
Father Teddy chose as his Gospel reading for that first Mass the story in the
gospel of John about the morning Jesus told his disciples where to cast their
nets. They were fishing all night long and had caught nothing. They cast their fishing nets just where Jesus
told them to toss them and surprise: their nets were filled with fish - almost
to breaking point.
When they brought their nets to shore they counted their
fish - large ones - 154 fish. Teddy said
when he heard that for the first time - he realized Jesus was interested in
catching fish. Then he told everyone in
church that morning - "That was the beginning." He told everyone that Jesus - a
carpenter - switched his career to becoming a fishermen - to catch men and
women to follow him.
He added that Jesus called fishermen to
become fishers of people - and they switched their jobs to become
preachers - then with a smile - so I switched my career in ichthyology to
becoming a priest.
His parents were sitting there thrilled in the first bench in church - with
wonderful smiles on their faces - and
small golden pins on their lapels - that Father Teddy gave them - small golden pins with the
image of a fish on them - the symbol of Christians.
His sister Teresa - was sitting off to the side - crying
- with her violin in hand - with 15
members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra who were playing at the Mass - and
Father Teddy said, “So I guess it’s good to ask kids what they want to be when
they grow up - but you never know? Look at my sister Teresa over there. She always
wanted to be a soccer player - and look at her now.”
And she, the older sister, stood up, and interrupting his sermon spoke into a
standing microphone, “and you wanted to be an ichthyologist” and the whole
church laughed and clapped. And after the clapping, Father Teddy said back at her from his microphone, “I did become one!
Look at all the fish in church this morning whom I caught to come to my first
Mass today. Amen!”
The title of my homily for this 3 Sunday after Easter - C - is, “Do You Love Me?” Perhaps the best way of doing this homily would be for everyone here in the church to come up to the microphone one by one and ask, "Do you love me?" At first some might yell out to the person who asked the question, "Yes!" Then as everyone began hearing everyone ask the question, I can hear the answer getting louder and louder and louder: "Yes! Yes! Yes!" It would take a bit of time, but I guarantee it would be the one sermon you would remember for the rest of your life - not the following homily, I'm about to preach. Once more, the title of my homily is, "Do You Love Me?"
Today’s readings have various topics and themes to think
about - to pray with - to preach about - to be challenged with - too, too many
What do these readings say to you in your life today?
Whom do I obey: God, Self, Others? [First Reading]
Am I scared or hesitant to be labeled a
Christian - a follower of Jesus? [First Reading]
Am I here at Mass to praise God - to sing praise
to the Lord, to give thanks to God? [Psalm Response]
When I praise God - when I praise the Lamb - do
I say a loud “Amen” and see myself saying that with every creature on earth and
under the earth and in the sea, with everything in the universe? [Today’s
What have I caught in my life or have I come up
empty? [Today’s Gospel]
Whom Do I feed? Who has fed me? [Today’s Gospel]
Do I hear Jesus - and how he has forgiven me the
times I have denied him - like Peter denied Jesus? [Today’s Gospel]
Do I hear Jesus’ question: “Do you love me?”
ONE TOPIC - ONE
Today I’d like to think about the “Do You Love Me?”
It’s a topic and a theme we all deal with all the time -
knowingly and unknowingly - sometimes down deep more than other times.
I sense it’s the number # 1 motive in life: to be loved and
Who loves me? Whom do I love?
Remember that was Kojak’s question: “Who loves ya, baby?”
[LONG, LONG, LONG PAUSE] Who loves you?
A sermon on this topic can impact us.
I can never forget a scene I saw on a late night talk show
when Sammy Davis Jr. was asked, “Why do you always say to people, ‘I love you”?
And he said that he had a buddy whom he loved, but he never told him he loved
him. The buddy was killed in an accident. So Sammy Davis said he made a life
resolution: “If I love someone, I’m going to tell them ‘I love you!’”
My mom and dad loved us four kids big time. It was never an
issue with me. However, I didn’t
remember them specifically saying that. I know it was a big issue for some
people. I used to call my mom every Sunday - my father had died way back in
1970. So that Sunday night after hearing Sammy Davis Jr’s comment on why he
said, “I love you!”, I said that to my mom at the end of my phone call, “I love
you”, and she paused and then said, “Love you!”
I did that every Sunday - and every Sunday I got the “Love
you!” but never the “I” in
the “I love you.”
On the night before my brother was to have his cancer brain
tumor operation from melanoma, I called him in the hospital and said, “I love
you!” and he said back, “I love you too!” Those were his last 4 words to me -
dying the next day after his brain operation.
Who loves you?
After having been on a lot of high school retreats - and
having listened to a lot of today’s kids and people, there are a lot fewer
comments from people saying, “My parents never told me they love me?” We have
improved on that - as well as the hugs.
ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS
When it comes to love, we all know that there is a big distinction
between words and actions.
Actions speak louder than words.
In fact, if people say they love us, but rarely show it - or
show indifference on lack of caring - the words, “I love you” can become a
trigger for anger or frustration.
Moreover, we’ve all heard in many sermons - especially those
on today’s gospel - the Fiddler on the
Roof commentary about “I love you” - when Tevye asks his wife, Golde, if she loves him. She can’t say the words. She
can only talk about what she does for him. Tevye won’t give up and keeps asking
her. At one point in the song - in the play - she sings,
I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?
She still won’t say it.
He asks again and she answers, “I’m your wife.”
He answers back, “I know… But do you love me?
She answers - sort of to the audience,
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought with him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?
Tevye says, “Then you love me?”
Golde answers, “I suppose I do.”
Tevye then says, “And I suppose I love you too.”
Then both end the song with these words,
It doesn't change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know.
So Jesus fiddles with his disciple Peter at the lakeside
here at the end of John’s gospel and asks him 3 times, “Do you love me?” “Do
you love me?” “Do you love me?”
And three times - Peter answers with growing frustration:
“You know I love you!”
And three times Jesus tells Peter to do what Jesus did,
“Feed …. Tend …. Feed my sheep.”
Obviously the Church, the family, every marriage would work - if everyone loved
one another - gave of themselves to one another - totally like Jesus did.
Obviously we who come to Mass to come to communion know
this: we come here to be fed, to be loved by Jesus and to then use that energy
to love one another. Amen. But it’s also nice to hear it every once and a