Saturday, May 11, 2013



The title of my homily  for this 6th Saturday after Easter is, “Cliques Crush Community.”

I recently preached on how comparisons can crush           us. This morning: here is a brief homily on the issue of cliques - and how they can crush community.


When I was in the seminary we were warned from time to time to avoid cliques. At first I had no clue what the word meant - and what cliques were.  All I knew for starters that they were a “no no!”

Slowly I discovered what everyone in every school, team, work place, neighborhood, and group learns. Cliques are a bummer. When sub-groups  or small groups within the larger group or community start to be snippy, snotty, snobby, the select few - then Houston we have problems.

I would see cliques from time to time - and saw from time to time how they can crush community.


This theme hit me from today’s first reading from Acts 18:23-28.

During these days after Easter we have been blessed with all these readings from the Acts of the Apostles. They are a blessing because they give details, history. They are very specific with names of people  and places - even though some of them are hard to pronounce.  To me they are totally opposite from these readings from the Gospel of John which we have after Easter. John can be very poetic, vague, and unclear. That’s not just my opinion. Various scholars like Ray Brown point that out.

In today’s first reading we hear about Apollos - a Jew from Alexandria - who is a scholar of the scriptures. He had become a follower of John the Baptist.  Thanks to Priscilla and Aquila - he hears about Jesus -  as we heard in today’s first reading. He then becomes a follower of Jesus Christ and becomes well know in the different early Christian communities where he preached. Like good preachers people start to become his fans and followers.

Looking up anything about Apollos - I found myself in  the first chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Check it out!

It’s in the church of Corinth where this issue of cliques shows up. Some say they are following Apollos; some say they are following Paul. Some say they following  Cephas or Peter. This is the language of cliques. Paul challenges the Corinthians. The different groups as we hear in the 1st Letter to the Corinthians attack back at Paul. Paul responds, “Has Christ been parceled out? Was it Paul that was crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”


Part of  the  history of the Catholic Church is a history of cliques and conflicts and comparisons and sub-groupings - leading to divisions and splits.

From time to time groups break off - and form their own churches.

We Redemptorists here in the United States split on the issue of reaching out to the English speaking Americans - so we have the Paulists begun by ex-Redemptorists.

If you see Father Benedict Groeschel on EWTN - you know his group broke off from the Capuchins which had broke off from the Franciscans - each group started for the purpose of renewal.

When I was novice master we would got to meetings of  students from various religious communities. At times I would hear groups comparing and criticizing other groups. It’s the stuff people often do when they are dealing with identity issues.

I know I have to be careful of not only verbal criticisms and digs, but also inner sniping. Being a slob who  prefers  the informal, I make fun of in my mind those I call the “Suits”.  Who am I to say that Jesus wouldn’t wear French cuffs and those elaborate expensive clerical   collars that some wear?

Cliques - groups - organizations use uniforms - hats - medals - badges - markers to say, “We’re special!” Then comes my question - and assumption at times, “You’re not!”

Every once and a while we all need to look at Jesus in that loin cloth on the cross - and make the stations of the cross with him.

In the meanwhile, we need to read the gospels - not these esoteric books that give private revelations. To me that kind of material can move people towards being Gnostics. To me their main underneath position is: “I know stuff you don’t know. Therefore I’m better than you.”  Underneath that is another of my uncharitable thoughts: “Therefore I’m not so bad after all.”

We all need to carefully read Jesus’ words about humility and simplicity - and his experiences with the Pharisees.


Jesus reached out to everyone - not just to his small group. It took Peter a while to get that message. Paul got it by conflict. Christ brings together people from the North, South, East, West - as the 4 points of the cross point out towards. 

Quote for Today - May 11, 2013

"Great roads the Romans built 
          that men may meet,
And walls to keep strong men apart, 
Now centuries are gone, 

          and in defeat
The walls are fallen, 
          but the roads endure."

Ethelyn Miller Hartwich, What Shall Endure?


Looking at my life of my parents, what has endured?

Looking at my life, what has endured?

Looking at my life, what do I want to endure?

Friday, May 10, 2013


Quote for Today - May 10,  2013

"If we could all hear one another's prayers, God might be relieved of some of his burden."

Ashleigh Brilliant [1933- ]

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Quote for Today - May 9, 2013

"More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones."

St. Teresa of Avila  [1515-1582]

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Quote for Today - May 8, 2013

"Before we can pray, 'Lord, Thy Kingdom come,' we must be willing to pray, 'My Kingdom go.'"

Alan Redpath

Tuesday, May 7, 2013



The title of my homily for this 6th Tuesday after Easter is, “Come Holy Spirit!”

We’re moving now into that time of the Church Year when there will be much greater stress on the coming of the Holy Spirit.

I like to stress using one’s rosary beads for all kinds of prayers. So don’t hesitate to say on the 59 beads, “Come Holy Spirit!” - especially if you feel stuck - especially if you need wisdom, advice, or the Advocate - as  today’s gospel calls the Spirit. “Come Holy Spirit.” You can take your beads and say that prayer 59 times in less than 2 minutes. Of course, I’m not stressing time, but praying.

I misplaced or lost my white rosary beads - they are somewhere I hope - so I said a prayer to St. Anthony and St. Gertrude and found a ruby red pair the next day in the pocket of a jacket I rarely wear.

Come Holy Spirit.


Have you ever felt like the jailer in today’s first reading?  He thinks his prisoners - Paul and Silas - escaped. The whole town of Philippi were screaming and yelling at Paul and Silas. Then the town magistrates ordered that they be stripped and beaten - and thrown in jail. Seeing the cell doors open, the jailer reached for his sword to kill himself. Paul shouts out, “Don’t do it. We’re still here!” [Cf. Acts 16:22-34]

Have you ever felt like that? You wanted to kill yourself - well not really,  but you said, “I could kill myself!” You didn’t mean it literally - but you felt trapped because of shame or a family disaster or a scandal or a mistake or what have you. Woo!

Come Holy Spirit. Reach for your beads, reach for prayer, not  the sword. Reach for the Holy Spirit to get you out of that trap or that prison or those chains.

And hopefully there will be a resolution or a solution - and a happy ending. That’s how today’s first reading ends. The head of the jail and his family throw a dinner for Paul and Silas and they are baptized and become Christians.


I read today’s gospel - John 16: 5-11 last night - to say something in this homily. I prayed, “Come Holy Spirit!”

Nothing was hitting me - except the promise of Jesus that he would send us the Advocate  - that Jesus had to leave  - so the Advocate could come. What is that all about?  Is it like a parent sending a kid off to college or one pope replacing another pope?

You heard it read, what hit you? What sense did you make of it?

I checked Raymond Brown’s Anchor Bible on this section of John and read the following, “Commentators have not found the detailed exposition of  8-11 easy.  Augustine avoided the passage as very difficult; Maldonatus found it among the most obscure in the Gospel. Loisy, p. 430, remarks that the pattern of mentioning the three charges (v.8) and then explaining each (9-11) - ‘a methodical explanation that has not much clarity”…. [1]

Come Holy Spirit.  How about some clarity?

Then it hit me: well, maybe when it comes to grasping God - it’s not clear. After all,  we Christians are taught - that God is a Father, as well as a Son who is both God and Human, and a Third Person - called the Advocate, or the Holy Spirit. All 3 are 1 God. The Church took a long time to put the Trinity into a formula and Creeds. In the meanwhile various heresies and a few centuries of efforts took place in the struggle to formulate declarations about God - as Christ taught us about God - as Trinity.

So too today’s  gospel. It is complicated stuff - these words about Jesus leaving his disciples - so he can send us the Spirit - the Advocate.


In the meanwhile we can say, “Come Holy Spirit” - and while praying those words we can ask for help with family, work, neighbor, stuff, self.

In the meanwhile,  we can  pray, “Come Holy Spirit” - and while praying those words ask the Holy Spirit to challenge us - to convict us when we’re living a lie or a sin or being lazy or not in the right.

Tough stuff. Tough prayer. Yet hopefully we keep praying, “Come Holy Spirit.” Amen.


[1] Raymond E. Brown, The Anchor Bible, The Gospel According to John XIII - XXI, Doubleday and Company, New York, 1970, page 711.

Blue picture on top: The Blue Angels flying over St. Mary's. Tap, tap, with your cursor - to get a full screen picture.

Painting in Middle: Rembrandt Van Rinj, Apostle Paul in Prison

Quote for Today - May 7, 2013

"Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it."

Lou Holtz

Monday, May 6, 2013



The title of my homily for this 6th Monday after Easter  is, “Remember What I Told You!”

I’m taking that from the last sentence in today’s gospel. “I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.” [John 16:4]

In my title I changed  the “that” to “what” - mainly because if we don’t remember what someone told us - how can it be helpful? Okay, we might remember they told us something - and we knew it was important at the time - so we know their motive was concern for us. But! But the what is what will help us.  To me that’s the key.


Jesus told his disciples a lot of things.  Lucky for us - people remembered some of what he told them and some folks wrote his words down - or told others what he said.

So we have the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - to be thankful - for gathering the words of Jesus - and putting them down on papyrus or vellum - or animal skin.

Some people love the Red Letter editions of the gospels where what Jesus said is written in red ink.

What I love is the Greek Editions of the New Testament - because they get me closer to what Jesus said in Aramaic than the English translations.

Last September 13th, 2012, I had a great moment to savor. It was a Thursday. I was with some folks from the parish. We were on a trip. We were in London. However, that morning, a group went to Paris on the fast train under the English Channel. Others went elsewhere in London. That morning I went with George one of the group. We saw St. Paul's and a few other famous London sights. That Thursday afternoon, I left George and headed for the British Library. George had some other stuff he wanted to see. Moreover, I didn’t think he or anyone else would want to go to the British Library.

I’ve always wanted to see with my own eyes some tiny, tiny scraps - remains of a copy of the Gospel of John that are dated to around the 2nd century. I went looking for them in the British Museum in London a few years earlier - but a guide there told me they were in the British Library. Never got there - because of time - but here was another chance to get there - finally - on September 13th 2012. I found the room I was looking for. There I stood looking at these tiny scraps - under heavy glass. I was looking at something much more important to me than the London Bridge or Westminster Cathedral.

They also had under glass the Codex Sinaiticus which I also always wanted to see. It’s dated to some time in the 300’s.

Before I die - it's on my Bucket List - I’d love to see in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, Papyrus 457. It is dated to the 2nd century - that’s the 100’s. It’s a tiny scrap of papyrus which has on it, John 18:31-33. It’s the oldest surviving fragment of the entire NT. 

It was found in an a key town in Egypt - along the Nile. Specialists tell us that indicates that copies of the Gospel of John,  some 40 to 45 years after John wrote his gospel that it had made its way to far away Egypt.


The title of my homily is, “Remember What I Told You!”

Writers were remembering what Jesus told us - and we are doing just what Jesus told us to do. Use these words - use what I told you - to hold together your life in me.

For homework, dig deep into the soil along rivers of your life - and find fragments of Jesus’ words that you have preserved - that you use to hold together your life - your favorite sayings of Jesus - texts - precious words that captivate who you are.

In that last statement in today’s gospel Jesus says just that. Listen again to his motive why he told us what he told us,  “I have told you this so that you may not fall away.”

Get your own pen and paper and write down the words of Jesus that are key to you - words that more important than seeing the London Bridge or the Brooklyn Bridge, Westminster Cathedral or St. Patricks’ Cathedral - the Pope or Elvis Presley - if he’s still around. 


Painting on top: The Lord's Supper by Gail Meyer

Quote for Today  - May 6, 2013

"I do not believe 
that sheer suffering teaches. 
If suffering also taught, 
all the world would be wise,
since everyone suffers. 
To suffering must be added 
mourning, understanding, 
patience, love, openness 
and the willingness
to remain vulnerable."

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Time, February 5, 1973

Painting on top: Rembrandt

Sunday, May 5, 2013



The title of my homily for this Sixth Sunday of Easter C, is, “Inner Prayer.”

We know outside prayer: the Our Father, a Hail Mary, the “Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace” prayer, the Grace before meals prayer: “Bless us O Lord and these your gifts which we are about to receive from your bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen.” We know  the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” We know the public "outside" prayers of the Mass. We know famous prayers, public prayers, the prayers of other’s - but today I want to reflect upon inner prayer - or quiet prayer, silent prayer, secret prayer, or thinking to oneself prayer….


To be transparent, I chose this topic because I found today’s readings are tough readings to get a clear and practical and helpful topic and theme to preach about.

Because of that I chose this topic and theme of inner prayer by default,  because when reading surveys on what people want to hear more about  from the pulpit and in Spiritual Reading - I often spot people’s call for more on prayer.

One of my favorite scenes in the gospels is Luke 11: 1-13 - when the disciples of Jesus say to him: “Lord, teach us how to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” They want more on prayer. This is the year or Luke so we’ll hear that Gospel on the weekend of July 28th. I don’t repeat homilies - and I also assume you’ll forget what I’m preaching on today by 2 PM - if not sooner. Smile.

In the meanwhile, from time to time we’re like the disciples. We ask Jesus to teach us how to pray.  And Jesus teaches his disciples the Our Father prayer.

That’s a good place to begin inner prayer. It’s the first Christian prayer that missionaries translate into a new language. It’s the prayer that everyone knows. It can be said with all Christians - it brings us together in prayer.  We’ve all been with families who stand around the dinner table hold handing hands saying the Our Father together. Some families stand together in the evening - and say the Our Father before the youngest goes to bed. I’ve been at the bedside of many a person dying - with the family around the bed - at home - or Mandarin House - or the hospital  - and we’re holding hands and saying the Our Father together. It’s a very natural thing to do.

I’ve noticed in nursing homes the following: I’m all alone with a person who is really out of it.  Someone in the family called and asked me to visit someone. So I say the Our Father out loud. Sometimes when I do this, I see the person’s lips moving. In fact I learned that the last two things people can say when they can’t say anything else,  it’s the Our Father and they join in when they hear someone singing, “Happy Birthday.”

The Our Father is basic. We all have it memorized. Hopefully we’ve all taken it apart in inwardly - in inner prayer and  reflection. It’s a prayer for life’s essentials: daily bread for all, forgiveness for all - to forgive and be forgiven of when we trespassed or stepped over the boundaries with others or others have hurt us - and especially being able to say to God our Father, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Oh my God, don’t we want it - our way - every day?

In Luke 11 - after teaching his disciples the Our Father, Jesus then goes deeper with teaching his disciples how to pray.  He tells us nag God, beg God, scream out in the night at God’s windows for help. Jesus asks us to ask, and seek, and knock on God’s door and God will give us bread, not stones, fish, not snakes, eggs not scorpions.

The title of my homily is, “Inner Prayer” - to reflect upon others prayers and our inner prayers - inside our mind - inside our home. Inner Prayer.


Yesterday I went to both First Communion Masses at St. John Neumann Church - one at 9 AM and the other at 12. And I had a wedding at 3 PM.

The church was packed, packed, with extra seats added in the back for the First Communions at St. John Neumann and fairly filled for the wedding.

At the First Communions I was off to the side - very happy that our pastor, Father Tizio and Deacon Leroy Moore were up front. Father Tiz is the best I’ve seen yet preaching to kids - and if you can reach the kids, you can reach their parents and grandparents - who had filled the church.

I had time to just sit there. We were up front - but off to the side - and I could see faces - lots and lots of faces. And I like to look at faces and pray for that person. I also like to imagine and wonder what is going on in other people’s minds and hearts.

If I don’t know the face, I pray if they are not church goers, they will reconsider. I pray if they have been hurt by life or church or others, they will forgive and be forgiven. I pray that they will look at their children and grandchildren and be grateful for this gift of life - saying to themselves, “It’s all worth it.”

At weddings I figure parents are making a review of their kids’  whole life - the curses and the blessings, the good times and the bad, the sickness and the health. I figure they are thanking God in inner prayer. I sometimes hear them saying, “It’s about time.” Or “Help these two, O Lord, help them.” I can sometimes hear them saying, “Make us grandparents. Make us grandparents!” And I can hear grandparents thinking, “Thank you Lord, for the grace to be here at this moment.”

Inner prayer.

I think all of us wonder what others are thinking - and talking to themselves about. In this homily I want to stress the prayer in what we’re inwardly thinking and praying about. So listen to your inner prayers - they will tell you a lot about you.


Moving towards a conclusion - let me use today’s three readings.

Today’s first reading again this week is from the Acts of the Apostles tell us about debate and dissension in the early church. So what else is new.

It’s always something. Every family, every work place, every organization has debate and dissension. Inner prayer calls us to talk to each other and to pray to the Holy Spirit for help - as we see Paul and Barnabas and the early church doing.

Today’s second reading again this week if from the Book of Revelation. It pictures a great revelation of Jerusalem - the Holy City - one of the images of Heaven - in splendor. It pictures glittering gates and walls with sacred graffiti on them: the names of the 12 apostles.

Using imagination to tie this into my theme for today. Early in the gospels we hear Jesus talk about our inner room - where we pray to the Father in quiet. I know myself and my life - at times I’ve rarely visited that inner room. I like to think by the time I hit heaven, please God - all the walls are down, all the doors are open - and that inner room is filled with all God’s people - because that’s heaven, that’s happiness - union with all people and with our God.

Today’s gospel from John speaks especially to inner or inside prayer - because if we read the gospels - Jesus seems to always be in communion with his Father - in prayer. We see him trying to find time and space - to be with his Father in prayer - and he keeps on being interrupted by the needs of people - but it’s this union, communion, connection with his father - that gets him to reach out to be in communion with all people. Amen.


Quote for Today - May 5, 2013 - Cinco de Mayo.

"A bad cut can be cured, but a bad reputation can kill."

Spanish proverb