Saturday, August 3, 2013



The title of my homily for this 17 Saturday in Ordinary Time  is, “Forgiveness! Sounds Good on Paper!”

Today’s first reading from Leviticus  25: 1, 8-17 sounds good on paper.

The book of Leviticus announces a Jubilee. Every 50 years the horn - the trumpet - shall sound, shall resound, shall echo and re-echo through the land of Israel. It’s a time of Jubilee  - a Day of Atonement - when everyone can get their land back - for a different price or a cheaper price than assumed - so too the cost of food - so too the cost of everything.

Slaves are to be freed. Debts are to be forgiven.


Does everyone need a time of forgiveness - when the slates are cleaned - when sins are erased - when hurts are loaded on barges and shipped out to the deepest part of the ocean and dumped - with rocks tied to them - so they will sink to the bottom of the ocean?


From time to time in the Catholic Church there have been Jubilee years. You might remember that the year 2000 - was called a Year of Jubilee - when doors in Rome were opened  - that had been sealed.

Jubilee years and jubilee celebrations were pretty much forgotten in the Catholic Church till Pope Boniface VIII called for the year 1300 to be a year of Jubilee. Indulgences were given. Forgiveness was stressed. Pilgrimages to Rome were called for.

They pretty much were called for at different times after that - sometimes every 50 years, sometimes 25 years. Pope Urban VI called for one every 33 years to make it like the length of Christ’s life.

What would it be like if the Catholic Church announced forgiveness of all sins - without having to go to confession - just get to Mass - and thank God for the forgiveness? Years back when churches announced “General Absolution” - churches were filled - till that was squelched.

I remember reading an “Uh oh!”  suggestion for the Jubilee Year of 2000: what would it be like if all those divorced - didn’t have to go through an annulment practice - just from this day on - you’re forgiven?

What would it be like to get a spiritual “Get out of Jail” free card?

Speaking of jails, because of costs and no money, I understand California is going to simply release lots of prisoners - soon.


All this might sound good on paper for some, but the devil is in the details - and the implications.

Next - any of us  who have made serious mistakes - and have been forgiven - know how hard it is to actually be forgiven - in the reality of the heart?

As I was reading up on the Jubilee year - as mentioned in today’s reading from Leviticus, I noticed that different scholars have said that there is no evidence that this really ever happened - especially regarding land.

What would it be like to have someone knocking  on our door and saying, “We’re moving back - like right now.”

What would be like if farmers and merchants had to deal with giving the land a break - no planting and pruning for this year? It’s a jubilee year. Sounds good on paper?


All of us know the reality of making a mistake - saying, “I’m sorry!” - hearing “You’re forgiven” and then a year or twenty years later the other brings back a past mistake - in a argument or discussion or conversation.

All of us know the reality of making a mistake and we’re the one who can’t forgive ourselves - like our whole lifetime.

Looking at today’s gospel - Matthew 14: 1-12, what would it be like to have been Herodias and her daughter - and Herod in today’s gospel who have John the Baptist killed - beheaded - and have his blood on their hands for the rest of their lives?

We go through life with our scars and our reminders of our mistakes. At some point we have to learn to let the blood of Christ heal us.

Forgiveness sounds good from the pulpit. Forgiveness sounds good on paper. 

Quote for Today - August 3,  2013

"It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend."


Comment: Try that on for size. Does that fit?

Friday, August 2, 2013


Quote for Today - August 2, 2013

"It is said the average person speaks eleven million words yearly - one-half of these are I, my, and mine."


Thursday, August 1, 2013


Quote for Today  - August 1st, 2013

"The human heart is, 
so to speak,
the paradise of God."

St. Alphonsus de Liguori [1696-1787]

Hit Full Screen to see whole dance floor.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Quote for Today - July 31, 2013

"Teach us, good Lord,
to serve You as You deserve:
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not mind the wounds;
To toil and not seek for rest;
To labor and not ask for reward
Except that of knowing
that we do Your will."

St. Ignatius of Loyola [1401-1556], Prayer for Generosity [1548]

Painting on top: Ignatius of Loyola - Anonymous - 16th century.

Feast day: Today, July 31st. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013



The title of my homily for this 17th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Sounds Familiar.”

All of us who come to Mass a lot - all of us who have heard scripture passages over and over again - from time to time - we start to hear sounds in the Bible texts that remind us of other texts.

If that happens, that's a good sound....

It’s like music. We’re hearing a song, but we say about part of a piece of music, “I heard this somewhere before.”

When that happens with the readings at Mass, we’re getting into them; they are becoming us; we’re connecting with the Bible in the tabernacle of our head.

The words are becoming flesh - and then especially when we put them into practice in our life.


We are hearing the scriptures in English - in different translations.

I have been hearing ever since I started taking courses on the Bible in the seminary  - and then in reading books and articles on the Bible as well as workshops after that -  that there are many, many interconnections and cross references in the original languages - word plays - what have you -  with other texts in the Bible.

Moreover, I’m sure you have heard that the chapter and the verse numbers - in the Bible - were not in the original texts. They were added much later on - from the 1200 to 1500’s A.D.   So when we want to refer one Bible text with another Bible text  we use numbers for the chapters and the verses. Sometimes the original texts make references to other texts by using a word or an image or a phrase that people upon hearing the it will connect it with a similar word or words in another text. It’s not plagiarism.

So it’s not by accident that the Gospel of John begins with the words, “In the beginning” - which is telling Jewish Christians - this is a new beginning - a new Genesis - because Genesis begins with the same words: “In the beginning.”

I always heard that there is a lot more of this going on in the Bible that those of us who can't read the Bible in it's original languages would know. Ooops. I’m assuming that none of us here speak Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek - so we miss these word plays in the original  texts connecting one text with another text.


Today’s first reading from Exodus 33 talks about Moses, tents, and going apart.

Today’s first reading talks about Moses in the desert 40 days and 40 nights - fasting.

I’m sure that triggers for us a connection of Moses with Christ - who did those very things - except for the tent. Jesus was the tent - sometimes translated in English by the word “tabernacle. Jesus is also the temple after it replaced the tent in Jewish life and worship - and we Christians are familiar with the veil in the temple when it was ripped in two at Jesus’ death and his presence went into the great tent and temple of the world. [Cf. Matthew 25:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45.]

The early church was saying to Jewish Christians that Christ was the New Moses and he was fulfilling Judaism.

Notice in today’s first reading that Moses liked to go apart - by himself - to hiding places - to the Holy of Holies in tent form - so  I hope it triggered the many times Jesus in the gospels is going apart to be with his father - our Father, our God.

And we can do the reverse: we can take a New Testament text - especially from the gospels - or the Letter to the Hebrews - and we can see all the references in those New Testament texts to Old Testament texts.

Let me also add that to grasp the scriptures, we need to know allegory - as well. For example, today’s gospel is an allegory. All these references to seed and earth - bring us right into the minds and earth of Israel and its people.


Together with all these word connectings,  these familiar sounds, we can go deeper and deeper into spiritual understandings of our scriptures.  

The title of my homily was: “Sounds Familiar.”

How many times have Christians gone to a Jewish Temple or Synagogue and looked up and saw a tabernacle. 

We pause and think: "That looks familiar."

Then they saw a rabbi or someone open up the tabernacle door and out came the Sacred Scriptures. 

Then we said inwardly, “Oh my God we believe the same thing - but we believe the Word became flesh and lives among us."

Then we conclude: "Wow! When it comes to religion so much looks familiar and so much sounds familiar. Amen.

Quote for Today - July 30, 2013

"Gossip should be spelled gassip, as it is flammable, combustible, and should be capped."


Footnote: Another New Word: "Guessip"

In the April 28, 2013 issue of The New York Times Sunday Magazine I spotted the following:

"That Should Be A Word
by Lizzie Skurnick


(GEH-sip), n.

1. Particularly amorphous rumor conjecture. 'Troy grew so impatient with the guessip that he installed himself at the hair salon until he knew who was stepping out on whom.' See also: fauxment (to dramatize with each telling)." page 19, One Page, The Magazine.

Monday, July 29, 2013



The title of my homily for this feast of St. Martha - July 29th, is, “Corrections - Second Drafts.”

There are 2 choices for a Gospel reading for today: John 11: 19-27 when Martha proclaims her belief in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God: he who is to come into the world”; and Luke 10: 38-40 where Jesus comes to Martha and Mary’s house and Mary ends up being praised and Martha is corrected or chided by Jesus for being anxious and upset about many things - and Mary your sister has chosen the better part.

I chose the Gospel from John to read today - only because we heard the other gospel 2 times recently.

As I read over John’s story about Martha - there are only 2 stories about Martha in the gospels - I got the thought: maybe someone said Martha was corrected too tough by Jesus - maybe someone should give her a better story.

I doubt that is what happened, but I do know from taking many courses and workshops on our Sacred Scriptures - the Bible is a lot of re-writes.

The Catholic documents on the Bible certainly spell out that we Catholics are not fundamentalists. God did not tell the different authors to grab a quill - some parchment - and God dictated word for word the Bible for us.

Not all accept this. I am aware of that - and I also learned not to fight about this. And smile - because in today’s first reading from Exodus we heard God engraved by himself the ten commandments on tablets  - with writing on both sides.


The title of my homily is, “Corrections - Second Drafts”

Anyone who writes - knows writing is rewriting. Writing is second and third and fourth drafts. Writing is asking others for comments. Pick up most books and you’ll find in the introduction or first few pages - the author thanking someone for reading their manuscript and making comments, suggestions, and corrections.

How many times have we seen a movie scene with someone at a typewriter - or writing - and they are crumbling up paper after paper - till they get what they want to say correct.

The beauty of computers is you can do this much easier - writing and re-writing and re-drafting our thoughts.


Who Moses was and who Martha was - was who Moses was and who Martha was.

The person whose life we can correct and re-draft - and freshen up - is me, myself and I.

Conversion is possible. We can come out as a new edition.

I’m not talking about lies - but I am talking about taking a fresh look at our life - and bring all to Jesus and have him bring us resurrection and new life.

We can glory in our mistakes as the saints have - but only if we have learned from them - grown in understanding from them - and can laugh with God about life with them..

One of the definitions of a saint that I love is from Ambrose Bierce who defined a saint as: “Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited.”


So if we’re still alive - the call is to become the best we can become - the call is for a second or third or fourth edition - containing the learning we have picked up from life - especially our mistakes. 

Quote for Today - July 29, 2013

"We learn the rope of life by untying its knots."

Jean Toomer, Definitions and Aphorism, Li, 1931

Sunday, July 28, 2013



The title of my homily for this 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time C  is, “The Our Father - Think About It.”

I was at a wedding reception somewhere along the line and I’m talking to this guy - who says to me, “I don’t go to church - but I do say the Our Father.”

Seeing me, did I cause guilt or something?  Funny comments happen at priests at weddings.

He continued, “The Our Father is a great prayer. I say it every day. It has everything in it.”  Then he said, “Think about it!”

I don’t know what I said next or what have you - but I thought about what that guy said. I want to thank him - because like many people I say the Our Father over and over again - most of the times without thinking about it. This guy got me to think about it.


I thought about that moment when I read today’s gospel. It contains Luke’s version of the Our Father - a bit different than the one we all know very well: Matthew’s version. I assume that both Luke and Matthew’s version have the basic ingredients of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.

Luke was writing for Gentile Christians. His gospel is dated from around 80 to 90 AD - some scholars think in Antioch in Syria - the 3rd largest city in the Roman Empire at the time.  Matthew was written  75 to 90 - perhaps in South Syria - or Northern Palestine for Jewish Christians - certainly after 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed.

The Our Father is the first part of the New Testament and the gospels that is translated into the language of any new group that Christians are reaching out to.

Understand  the Our Father and you understand an awful lot of Jesus’ message.

As priest I noticed that the two things people remember till their end is the Our Father and Happy Birthday. 

I was once in a nursing home in Ohio and I noticed a sign on the door of the person I was visiting. It said, “Happy Birthday.”

I asked the lady if it was her birthday. She gave no response. She was all alone and was out of it and close to death. I wanted to ask an attendant if anyone sang, “Happy Birthday” to the lady, but I didn’t see anyone. I can’t sing or carry a tune, but what the heck, the lady was dying. 

So I sang, “Happy Birthday!” and it woke her up and she gave me a face - making me feel like a fool and off tune. I was. 

Surprise she began to sort of sing along with me. Then she spaced out again. 

I said the prayers in the book and anointed her and then I said the Our Father also out loud. 

Surprise! She was praying along with me - and then spaced out again. 

No problem. I’ve often seen people coming in and out of it during sermons.

So that’s why I say the last two things people remember are Happy Birthday and the Our Father - Matthew’s version.

And sometimes if the person says, “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory” at the end, I know he or she was either in AA or went to a Protestant Church.

As an aside, wouldn’t it have been nice if the Catholic Church added that Protestant addition at the end of the Our Father we say at Mass - as a gesture of good will. Yet at Mass, we did add it a bit later.  


Today’s readings are about prayer. They are a good reminder. They are a wake up call and a challenge for us to think about our prayer life - our communication - our relationship with God. How is it?

Today’s first reading has the fascinating story in the primitive text of Genesis - how Abraham like anyone in the marketplace tries to haggle down a merchant on how much something is going to cost. Abraham gets God from 50 down to finding 10 good people in Sodom and Gomorrah - and God won’t destroy it.

Message: there is nothing wrong with arguing, haggling, begging, bargaining, bothering God with our prayers.

Today’s Psalm Response has one of the 4 most basic prayers there are: Help, Sorry, Thanks and Wow! Petition. Contrition. Thanksgiving. And adoration. The Psalm response we sang was a good prayer, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” If God doesn’t answer you, pray some more - and let God know you’re angry with Him. The Psalms are loaded with that reality - especially, “Help!”

Today’s second reading from Colossians challenges us to bring to prayer the need for God’s power to forgive us our sins - our transgressions - one of the key parts of the Our Father.

Today’s gospel begins with a great way to learn how to pray: Go to Jesus and say to him: “Lord, teach me how to pray.”

Today’s gospel gives us Luke’s Version of the Our Father and then the key message of asking, seeking, knocking at God’s door - any time of the day or night and keep nagging him - nagging him - nagging him.


One simple, short, suggestion: use your rosary for your praying.

I like to say in the pulpit, “Rosary beads aren’t just for Hail Mary’s.” I’m not saying I’m against the great prayer called, “The Hail Mary.”

What I am saying is to use a rosary as a reminder. When you reach for it in your pocket in the car or at a boring meeting or while walking, you’re saying to yourself:  “I am now about to pray.” 

Muslims do the same thing with beads and prayer rugs. Just take them out and you’re telling yourself, I am now going to pray. Rosary beads are great worry beads - they are great prayer beads - and don’t be scared to let people see you use them. We’re supposed to be evangelizing folks.


If you tell me next summer. I heard your sermon last summer about using one’s rosary beads for prayer - and for this past year my rosary beads are right here in my pocket - and I take them out from time to time to pray - and I wasn’t scared to tell family and friends what I was doing.

Next I hope you hear the following.

Before using a rosary for Hail Mary’s, the Our Father, the Glory be and the Apostles Creed, say on the 59 beads for a month - once a day the opening request in today’s gospel: “Lord, teach me how to pray!”

Just do that for a month.

Second month: Our Father….

In today’s gospel, Jesus then teaches his disciples the Our Father.

Now, it’s an obvious disaster what we can do with the Our Father when we say it as if it is one long word: OurFatherwhoartinheavenhall owedbethynameThykingdomcomethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheavenGiveusthisdayourdailybreadandforgiveusourtrespassesasweforgivethosewhotresspassagainstusandleadusnotintotemptationbutdeliverusfromevil.Amen.  It’s not one word….

As that guy at the wedding said to me: Think about it.

For that second month simply say on the 59 beads the words, Our Father - and forget about the counting - let the beads do that for you. Ponder God as Father - our Father - while saying those two words 59 times. If you’re a father, what kind of a father are you? Think about God - as Father. That’s one of Jesus’ big teachings. It can be seen as sexist - or it can be seen as God as core - God as central - God as creator and provider - mother and father, parent. God as the one who keeps the whole house of the Universe together. Our Father.

By saying that we’re saying we believe in God. We’re saying, “I’m not in this life alone.” We’re saying, “There is a God - Our Father - and He is aware of me.”

Say for the next month, “Our Father who are or art in heaven.”  Saying there is a heaven is another act of faith. See where that takes you by saying it 59 times and thinking about it for a month.

Say for a month: “Hallowed be your name.”  A person’s name is sacred. The person whom we love, we say their name all the time in our inner brain. I read once that lovers say one word - all the time - the name of the person they love. Hallowed be your name - our Father.”

“Your kingdom come.” Say that for a month on your beads. See where that takes us. Mathew adds, “on earth as it is in heaven”. Luke just says, “Your kingdom come.”  What does kingdom mean? Isn’t the kingdom what God desires - what God wants, what God wills, what God hopes for. Isn’t that what we want, a dream world and a dream hereafter. Compare our dream with God’s dream and see where that takes us - in the here and in hereafter.

“Give us each day our daily bread.”  We feed birds. We give animals water in the dog days of summer. We keep hearing lots of folks are starving and there is enough food for all. People eat. People are hungry. It’s great when we see beyond our own bellies and do for the bellies and stomachs of all.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”   Notice the word “Our”. That one prayer can get us to volunteer for Thanksgiving Dinners for others - or to volunteer to help with the St. Vincent de Paul Society or put money in our poor boxes - or to help out once a month at the Lighthouse or make sandwiches once a week - or once a month - or once a year -for hungry folks or what have you.

Forgiveness is the next big theme to pray for a month on - using our beads. Luke’s version is shorter than Matthew’s. I think one reason  Matthew’s version is more accepted and known is because it interconnects our being forgiven with the way we ourselves forgive others.

And lastly, spend a month with our beads with the prayer: “lead us not into temptation” or “the final  test” as Luke’s version in English puts it. Saying the prayer: “Lead us not into temptation” - or “Prepare me for the final test.” Say that 59 times on our beads for a whole month. See where that takes us.


The title of my homily is, “The Our Father - Think About It.”

I think I gave you some practical ways of learning how the Holy Spirit can help us to pray and how to grow in prayer - how to be with Jesus praying to Our Father each day.

THE MUSIC ....  

Quote for Today - July 28, 2013

"Like dead, 
remembered footsteps 
on old floors."

Edwin Arlington Robinson [1895-1935], The Pity of the Leaves