Saturday, April 27, 2013


Quote for Today - April 27, 2013

"I walk in the garden,  I look at the flowers and shrubs and trees and discover in them an exquisiteness of contour, a vitality of edge and a vigor of spring as well as an infinite variety of color that no artifact I have seen in the last sixty years can rival ... Each day, as I look, I wonder where my eyes were yesterday."

Bernard Berenson

Friday, April 26, 2013


Quote for Today - April 26, 2013

"If we live good lives, the times are also good. As we are, such are the times."

Saint Augustine [354-430]

Comment: Next time someone says the time we are living in horrible times, try that quote.

Or quote the opening paragraph of Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens [1812-1870], "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."  

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Quote for Today - April 25, 2013

"Even God cannot change the past."

Agathon  (447?-401 B.C.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Quote for Today - April 24, 2013

"If you wait for inspiration you'll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street."

Ben Nichols

Tuesday, April 23, 2013



The title of my homily for this Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Easter is, “Christian: Noun or Adjective?”

The last comment in today’s first reading is the fascinating text, “It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”

I’d like to say a few words about the word “Christian” - leaving today’s Gospel to just sit there - especially because the gospel for this past Sunday is part of today’s gospel.


Every time I hear that comment at the end of today’s gospel,  I think of a comment by C. S. Lewis about how  the word “Christian” is used as a noun and an adjective. He thinks it’s wiser to use the word “Christian” as a noun. Then if you want to make judgments about someone and/or their behavior or their lifestyle - add an adjective like good or bad or devout or non-practicing Christian.

To make his point, C.S. Lewis in the preface to his book, Mere Christianity, uses the example of the word “gentleman”. It meant someone who had a coat of arms and some land. It wasn’t a compliment to call someone a gentleman. He could be a liar or a fool - but he was still a gentleman - if he had the coat of arms, the land and the title. In time it came to describe behavior.

He says the same thing happened with the word “Christian”. It didn’t happen with the word “doctor” or “priest”. They could be good or bad, old or young. Notice I didn’t mention weight or looks.

I slip on this, but I prefer to go the way of C.S. Lewis.

To be a Christian - you are baptized.  Then one can  declare oneself a member of the Christian community. Keeping it a noun, some say, “I used to be a Christian.”  Noun! They were baptized.

It’s tricky when you bring the word “Catholic” into the mix. I would assume it was an attitude and an adjective when it was first coined - but became a noun. I don’t know if C.S. Lewis said it of the word “Catholic,” but I think it too works better as a noun.

And  we’ve all heard people say, “I’m a Catholic Christian”. That becomes tricky - especially if one also thinks about the comment, “I’m a Christian Catholic.”  That is saying something as well.

We know or could find out if someone is baptized - but as to whether a person is Christian - if you make it an adjective - that’s tricky.

The best road I think would be to reserve the judgments about who’s a good or bad Christian to judging oneself only.


I would assume that here in Antioch in the Acts of the Apostles - it was a noun - and it was used to describe those folks who joined the movement called the Way - or “followers of Jesus” or “Christians” and how they were living their lives.

What about us here in Annapolis?

We’d probably go with the word “Catholic” as a noun - as “Christian” as noun and adjective.

When it’s used to judge, label, fight, argue, with each other, then I try to hide.

When it’s used for us as Catholics to try to follow Jesus - by doing what he did - imitating what he did - then being called “Christian” hopefully energizes us to love one another, to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to have concern for the poor, to forgive, to be with the Father in secret, all those things.


In the meanwhile, let’s care for one another and maybe some people will know us as the old hymn goes. “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”

Quote for Today  - April 23, 2013

"Without the incense of heartfelt prayer, even the greatest cathedral is dead."


Monday, April 22, 2013



The title of my homily for this Monday in the Fourth Week of Easter is, “Jesus Keeps Calling My Name.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus says, “the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” [Cf. John 10:3.]

Today’s gospel also says: “Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.”

Do I realize what Jesus is saying here?

Do I realize Jesus knows me by name?

ISAIAH 49:16

Many people list their favorite scripture text as Isaiah 49:16. I’ve seen it on posters and on coffee cups and bumper stickers. It has variations from the Hebrew: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”  Or, “I have written your name on the palm of my hands.”

I think of it when I give out communion to kids who have names of others in ball point pen on the palms of their hands.

Alphonsus Jansen  in his book on The Meaning of Love and Marriage says that people who are in love say one word over and over and over again. “It’s the name of the one they love.”

Do I realize that God knows me by name?

Do I hear God calling me by name every day?


One of my favorite songs by Harry Chapin is, “Someone Keeps Calling My Name.”

He and a chorus keep singing that refrain over and over and over again: “Someone Keeps Calling My Name.”

The song has 3 persons hearing that message: a little girl name Jenny - 4 fingers old; Jonathan 50 seasons old; and Jamie 15 years old.”

And each of the three wonder if it’s just the rustling of the wind or maybe I just need a friend.

“Someone Keeps Calling My Name.”

I looked up the song on line and listened to it again - and under one version there are two comments to whoever put the song on line that grabbed me.

The first comment was “First song my wife sang to me. It means a lot. Thank you.”

The second comment was. “Wonderful song. Clearly a reminder from Harry that God is always wanting to speak to us.”


The title of my homily is, “Jesus Keeps Calling My Name.”

Folks often ask us priests the question the disciples ask Jesus in Luke 11:1, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”

And Jesus taught them the Our Father.

Another answer is to be quiet - and as Jesus says in today’s gospel, John 10: 3 - to hear him call us by name.

Quote for Today  - April 22, 2013

"Thus every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite."

Aristotle, Rhetoric


What would be your 7?

Walter Savage Landor said, "We talk on principle, but we act on interest."  Would you put self interest first?

Napoleon said, "There are only two forces that unite men - fear and interest." Agree or disagree?

John M. Wilson said, "There are only two stimulants to one's best efforts: the fear of punishment, and the hope of reward." Agree or disagree?

Sigmund Freud talked about pleasure and pain as two key motivators. Is motivation mixed - for as Freud said, "Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate in their object-relations."  Agree or disagree?

Sunday, April 21, 2013



The title of my homily for this Fourth Sunday after Easter C  is, “Seeing, Hearing, Tasting.”

One of Jesus’ comments about people was that sometimes people have eyes that don’t see, ears that don’t hear, and I would add, taste buds that don’t taste.  He heard this from Isaiah the Prophet - as well as from noticing people not noticing people  - as well as not seeing the so much and so many -  that surrounds us. [Cf. Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13: 13-15; Mark 4:12; Joahn 12:40]


Could you all for a moment make these 3 gestures: [Eyes- fingers to eyes;  Cup ears; Wiggle tongue and mouth and make sounds as if eating.]

The title of my homily is, “Seeing, Hearing, Tasting.” [Make the 3 gestures while saying that!]


Today I’m supposed to stress awareness of one’s vocation - one’s call to respond - as well as to be aware of this earth we live on and in.

I'm going to stress the call for “Seeing, Hearing, Tasting” the sights and sounds and the tastes of this earth.

We could add touching, smelling - scenting,  imagining - but I sense it would be better to go with  just the 3 senses I’m going with.


First seeing….

Did Helen Keller see more than those who could see? 

We’ve all seen pictures, images, scenes of the earth from outer space. This great big ball called "earth" has a visible 78% waterscape. The rest is landscape: solid earth, clay, rock, fire, trees, gardens, garbage dumps, buildings, highways, wheat, grapes, soybeans, elephants. rhinos, monkeys, mosquitoes, ravens, orioles, butterflies and buttercups….

That round bluish image of earth from outer space - is like a dark blue swirl marble. It’s like a round eye. It’s like a round Eucharistic Bread. It’s like a grape hanging on the vine of the universe. 

This round earth and this great bang of a Universe is a gift from God - the creator - the sculptor - the artist.

Do we see? Do we praise God for all things bright and beautiful - all things amazing?

I once went with a priest friend of mine to the Coney Island Aquarium. I’m standing there looking into a gigantic fish tank - the silence being broken by the sound of gurgling, guggling, filtering,  water, water, everywhere.

While standing there the doors open and about 200 or 300 inner city kids came into where we were standing. They must have just gotten out of 5 yellow school buses. They were tapping each other - pointing to different fish. They were yelling, “Look at that one! Woo. Look at that one!” “Woo!” “Woo!” “Wow!” “Wow!” “Wow!”

I stepped back and looked at them. I said to Tom, the priest I was with, “Wow. I have forgotten how to see like a kid sees!”  

I had eyes that were barely seeing. I had a mind - an imagination - that had grown old, fat and flabby.

I had forgotten about the first and only time in my life I went snorkeling. It was at a beach in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. I was with 2 other priests. One priest told us to get long sticks. He showed us how to   sharpen the tips of the sticks. We then went out into the blue, blue water. He had told us how to stick the tips of the sticks into these sea creatures on the bottom. We then held them out like marshmallows over a camp fire. Little pieces of their flesh had come out of them and floated there in the water. Next, little   little fish  gathered to eat what was there in the water. Then slightly larger fish came to eat those little fish. Then larger fish came to eat those fish. The fish started to get bigger and bigger. I got scared. I dropped my stick and got out of there. I was seeing up close and personal a tiny bit of what happens in the waters of the earth.

There are a hundred billion, million stories like that happening all over the earth each day - in the waters and on the land.

I have eyes - do I see?

Jesus wanted us to see the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields - the stars of the sky - and the hurting person on the road to Jericho. He didn’t want big people eating the money savings of the little people - or cheating with scales in the marketplace. Rather he wanted to see people being generous to each other on how they measure out their grains, flour and what they were selling. He wanted us to see who was hurting and who needed love - and who needs to touch the edge of our garments - especially the children, especially the poor, especially  the unnoticed, especially those who have rocks thrown at them.

First call: Eyes.... It's the vocation - the call  - to see with our eyes - all on the earth and in the universe around us - that we live and dwell in.


The second call - the second vocation is to hear - to hear the sheep - especially the lost sheep - to hear the cries of the poor - to hear the sounds of the earth....

In the gospel we heard for today, from the 10th Chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus says the sheep know his voice. Jesus says he knows each sheep by its unique “Bah!”

We all know what it’s like to call someone up - and the voice on the other side is someone we don’t know. We dialed the wrong number. We all know what it’s like to get a call - and the other person doesn’t identify themselves - but we know the voice. We’ve heard it before.

The human call is to hear not only the voice - but to hear in the sound - tones and undertones - of that voice - to hear how our mom or dad or brother or sister is feeling that day - that moment - in that call.

The human call is to hear so well that we put down our cell phone and really listen to who is at our family table - or on the couch with the remote.

The human call is to hear our dog or cat or baby brother or sister or nana or grandpa over in the corner or in the nursing home - who would love to be in connection with us.

It’s easy to go to communion at Mass. It’s the sacrifice of the Mass to be in communion with each other.

How good is our hearing?

Did Helen Keller hear more than those who could hear?

Hearing goes with eyesight. I love a comment written by Marian Evans Cross - who wrote with a man’s name - George Eliot - because men could be published easier than a woman in her day: around the 1860’s and 1870’s. In her book Middlemarch, we hear this observation:

“If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in      human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.” [Chapter 22]

I don’t know hearing sounds in green grass growing, but I’m sure if we put a stereoscope to a squirrel's heart and really listen, it would be pounding.

How good is our hearing? Do we hear the earth? Do we hear the sounds of frogs and owls and police cars rushing in the night?

I love the old teaching: when your hear a fire truck roaring - screaming - going by us on the street or our house - to say a prayer for the firefighters and the persons and place they are rushing to.

I love the recent teachings to be aware of and try to put an end to toxic dumping. Spills and dumping kills all kinds of life. Then the sounds of frogs and squirrels  start to disappear in those places on our earth. 

A day like Earth Day, a month like Earth Month, as well as protests, legislation, fines, pushing for cleanups - certainly are a witness to people hearing the cries of the earth. Gather the evidence of how sloppiness and dumping can lead to cancer - which lead to cries from people suffering from the stupidities and sins against the earth and each other.


The third call is tasting.

Jesus loved eating.  We see him eating all through the gospels. We see him at the Wedding Feast of Cana - changing 6 stone water jars that held 20 to 30 gallons of water into wine - so a wedding celebration could go on and on and on.  We see him feeding fields of thousands of men, women and children with bread and fish when they were hungry. We see him celebrating his Last Supper with his friends just before he died - not only feeding them with the best of wine and bread, - but he washed their feet, fed their minds with love and light about what life is all about, and he gave himself  that night - body and blood - to us - till the end of time.

That meal still goes on. We’re part of it tonight - and every time we celebrate this meal - called “The Mass”.

I once heard a talk on tape by the Vietnamese  Buddhist  monk, Thich Nhat Hanh - who simply said, “Taste your food.”  He said we can eat a whole bag of potato chips without tasting any one of them. His message of Mindfulness - is healthy - powerful and can make a big difference in our life. I’ve also read at least 4 of his more than 100 books. He urged slowing down and tasting what we're eating - being mindful of what we are doing.

Who enjoys pizza more: the person who grabs 5  pieces - to make sure he or she gets their full - and they only eat 3 pieces - and they don’t taste anything and dump that last piece and a half n the garbage?

Who grasps - who is in communion with Jesus more: the person who comes up the line for communion at Mass concentrating on thinking about  a conversation they are having in their mind about tomorrow afternoon - or the person who glimpses what this Mass is all about. It’s a meal. It’s a great meal with a family of people called Christians. It’s a meal with the history and mystery of Jesus - who has gathered us together to share presence - real presence - with each other. Being mindful is to be aware that to grow wheat takes work, hard work by farmers - then to make flour takes others running machines - then to bake bread takes more workers. It's the same with grapes - becoming wine. It all takes time - people, earth, rain, sun, wind.... 

Taste and see how good our God is.


One of the themes for tonight is vocation.

We need people to proclaim these messages.

We need priests to bring us together for this meal - called the Mass. Amen.


The title of my homily for this Fourth Sunday of Easter C  is, “What Does God’s Voice Sound Like?”

The preacher’s job is to read the readings for the day - ponder them - pray them - and then preach. As I juggled today’s three readings - I kept on dropping the three readings - especially the first two - on the floor.  I wouldn’t make a good juggler.


The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles had Paul and Barnabas preaching on two Sabbaths in a row to crowds in Antioch - in ancient Syria. A word fight breaks out.  It’s a yelling match. Paul is Jewish. He is speaking in a voice - with messages -  that intrigue the Gentiles - but the Jewish folks don’t accept what they are saying.

In the end, Paul says to the Jews: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

What did Paul’s voice sound like - when he said that? Listen carefully: he is saying what he hears God saying to him - that’s what God wants these other people to hear. That’s quite a statement. Remember before his name was Paul, his name was Saul. At that time he thought it was God’s will and voice to hunt down and get rid of Christians. He was in on the killing of Stephen. At different times in the scriptures he says he was wrong then, but right now. Is he?

The Jewish community there in Antioch reject Paul and Barnabas. They organized the prominent women and leading men of the city and throw Paul and Barnabas out of the area. Paul and Barnabas shook the dust from their feet as Jesus used to say - and then moved on to Iconium. [Cf. Acts of the Apostles 13:14, 43-52.]

The title of my homily is: “What Does God’s Voice Sound Like?”

Notice Paul is telling folks what God’s mind and intentions are!


Today’s second reading from the Book of Revelation has John telling his listeners and readers about a vision he had - one of many about what’s going to happen in the future - what God is like and who God is. He pictures God as the Lamb. He pictures a vast crowd of people who have survived the time of the great distress. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. [Cf. Revelation 7:9, 14b-17]

This is very dream like stuff. It’s very dramatic. It’s language with mixed colors and mixed images. There is the Lamb on the throne in the center. And the Lamb will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life giving water - and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

What are these dream like voices saying? What are they telling us about God’s mind and God’s voice and God’s plans?

From time to time we’ve seen these images of the lamb and shepherds on church walls and ceilings, in pictures, and on vestments.

They are mysterious. They are mythic: touching deep inside stuff in our minds and hearts. They can also be very foreign and have no grab.

These images are very Jewish. The smallest child - as well as the oldest member of every Jewish family knew about the slaying of the lamb that night before they made their escape - their Exodus, their Exit out of Egypt. Moses was their leader. Their shepherd. Follow him. They did it all very quickly - so quickly that their bread was unleavened.

Down through the years the Israelites knew the image of  blood being put on doorposts - so the angel of destruction that killed the first born of the Egyptians knew what homes to skip. They knew about going through the waters of the Red or Reed Sea to escape the Egyptians - and reach  the other side - so they could make their slow journey to the Promised Land. So the Jewish people knew these rich images - full of history and mystery.

These images then become very Christian: Jesus the Jew celebrates the Passover Meal - Lamb, unleavened bread, wine, bitter herbs -  in Jerusalem.  Jesus is slain -  dying on the cross at Passover time - and we hear the comment, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” Jesus is the slain lamb. His blood is now upon us and our homes. Then Jesus - the new Moses - the new Shepherd - the new Leader -  rises from the dead to lead us through the waters of Baptism in a new Exodus. Notice the paradox. The  Shepherd is the Lamb. It’s a total reversal. Jesus rises out of death to save us in spite of ourselves - and lead us to the Promised Land of Heaven.

This is mysterious head scratching stuff. It’s also code language from the early church - during times of persecution to  give people hope.

Question: How do any of these things help us hear and understand the voice of God in our life?


The title of my homily is, “What Does God’s Voice Sound Like?”

Of the three readings for today, the Gospel is the one which triggered the word "voice" as in the title of my homily about what God's voice sounds like. [Cf. John 10: 27-30.]

And here is where I can possibly give some food for thought for this week.

On my wall - on a white piece of paper - above my desk and computer where I write homilies,  I have Francis Chan’s "Seven Questions to Ask before You Preach." He is a Chinese Christian preacher in California - who comes from Hong Kong.  Besides saying a prayer I read these 7 questions before and while putting together a homily.

1) Am I worried about what people think of my message or what God thinks? (Teach with fear)

2) Do I genuinely love these people? (Teach with love)

3) Am I accurately presenting this passage? (Teach with accuracy)

4) Am I depending on the Holy Spirit’s power or my own cleverness? (Teach with power)

5) Have I applied this message to my own life? (Teach with integrity)

6) Will this message draw attention to me or to God? (Teach with humility)

7) Do the people really need this message? (Teach with urgency)

Those are tough questions - but I need the challenge. I also know I fail some or all of them every week -  over and over again.

That’s homework for me. Here is homework for you this week.

Here are 7 questions for you on the title and theme of this homily entitled, “What does God’s Voice Sound Like?

What does God’s voice sound like to you? Listen. Listen. Listen. Then ask:

               Is it angry?
               Is it silent?
               Is it gentle?
               Is it powerful?
               Is it frequent?
               Is it forgiving?
               Is it loving?

Here are 7 more questions - more homework - for you to ask yourself this week.

What does your voice sound like - when you are talking to your spouse, or kids, or family, or co-workers, or friends?

               Is it angry?
               Is it silent?
               Is it gentle?
               Is it powerful?
               Is it frequent?
               Is it forgiving?
               Is it loving?

This week, listen, listen, listen, carefully to yourself.

This week, listen, listen, listen, carefully  to God.

What do you and God sound like?

Do you hear any interconnections?

If you want more homework, do the same questionairre with regards your father and/or mother as you were growing up. 


There are lots of people telling us what God sounds like - who the good guys are - who the bad guys are - how to think - how to vote - how to be - why there is bad weather and bad experiences - and why what happened, happened - as for example in Boston last week.

Listen carefully - carefully - carefully - to who they are and to what they sound like.

As Christians, we have church - listen carefully to church as well. We have our scriptures - listen carefully to them - as well. The more we read and pray and are one with the community - the more we should be with Christ. Realizing this - the last sentence in today’s gospel jumped off the page for me.

The title of my homily is: “What Does God’s Voice Sound Like?” The last sentence is: “The Father and I are one.” 

Know Christ’s voice and you will know God the Father’s voice. Amen.


Painting on top: John Martin, UK, Adam Listening to the Voice of God the Almighty, c. 1827

Quote for Today - April 21, 2013

"Among all the strange things that men have forgotten, the most universal and catastrophic lapse of memory is that by which they have forgotten that they are living on a star."

G. K. Chesterton, Defendant, 1931