Saturday, August 17, 2013


Quote for Today - August 17, 2013

"Always put off till tomorrow what you should not do at all."


Friday, August 16, 2013



The title of my homily for this 19th Friday in Ordinary Time is, “Divorce.”

Divorce - like losing one’s house in a fire or experiencing the death of a child - or issues like alcoholism, suicide, homosexuality, gambling, abuse, are all abstractions - out there - happening to other people - that is,  till they hit home - till they hit our family. Then there can be pain, hurt, dark nights, anger, and the possibility of a lot of mis-understandings - and hopefully some new understandings, etc.


The other day in a homily I quoted Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh and their book Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels - in order to grasp what was going on in Palestine in the time of Jesus regarding children. When today’s gospel - Matthew 19: 3-12 -  talks about divorce I went to their book once more to get a glimpse of how they describe what marriage and divorce was like in Jesus’ time.

Here are some of their comments. I realize this can be a bit complex.

Marriage in the first-century Mediterranean world and earlier was marriage more of two families - than of two individuals. “One family offered a male, the other a female. Their wedding stood for the wedding of the larger extended family.” (p. 121) Think families.

People at that time saw families arranging marriages - as well as seeing God as the one who arranges marriages. “And just as it is God alone who determines one’s parents, so too it is God who ‘joins together’ in marriage.” (p. 121)  So when it comes to a divorce, realize this is very serious stuff - because God is in the picture as we hear loud and clear in today’s gospel.

“In Matthew’s community,” - the gospel we’re hearing today - “what is prohibited is divorce and remarriage or divorce in order to marry again. It would be such divorce that inevitably would lead to family feuding, a true negative challenge to the honor of the former wife’s family.”  Think impact on families - families!

Next, our text uses the word “unlawful” - whereas the text Malina and Rohrbaugh use has the word  “unchastity” - when talking about  certain marriages - that can be broken because they are listed in Leviticus 18:6-23, as having “forbidden degrees of kinship for marriage.”  In small villages and towns - with many family ties - marriages and relationships with close relatives happened - and this is not smart - nor healthy - for very close blood tied marriages. These also can lead to family feuds and anger. (p. 121)

In other words - according to Malina and Rohrbaugh - divorce in Matthew’s community - had  very serious disruptions  - causing serious family feuds - and great disruption in town - because of shame  - dishonor. If the  man slept with a prostitute - that didn’t have the impact of having sex with a woman in another family. That’s serious adultery.

We get some glimpses of this in close families today - when there is divorce or cheating. It too causes feuds, screaming, anger and disruptions in the local community.

Malina and Rohrbaugh indicate that the rights of a wife and children had little weight in Jesus’ time.  When talking about divorce, we’re talking about impact on the males and on families.


That’s kind of heavy. I don’t think it’s the stuff of a daily homily - a homily that is trying to tackling the issue of divorce because it was in the gospel. My goal was my desire  to jot down for myself - some random comments about marriage and divorce. Perhaps the following scattered thoughts would be more practical.

Today there is more awareness of women and children’s rights and considerations, 

Back then and today divorces are messy business.

What are we to do?

What are we to say?

For starters I always say to myself the old saying in the Talmud: “Teach thy tongue to say, ‘I do not know!’”

Then we can and must say some things.

Defend marriage.

Think of children - and their protection.  You heard what Anonymous once said, “Why didn’t they give the KID the house and let the parents take turns visiting.” 

In the meanwhile, make marriages stronger.

Give good example.

When kids vent to us about their marriage - listen - but recommend that they talk it would be better if they talk to  each other and talk to a third party if necessary. Counseling can help couples.

Tell them to write out what they are thinking and feeling.

Forgiveness, listening and loving one another, should always be in play.

In marriage - expect the bad times - along with the good. Isn’t that why that theme is in the vows? Expect  the cross to appear in our lives. The rosary doesn’t just have the Glorious and Joyful  mysteries. Sometimes we’ll be dealing with our own Sorrowful Mysteries of our personal rosary and hopefully there will be Light Bearing Mysteries as well.

Some people shouldn’t get married - as today’s gospel puts it.

Not everyone accepts Jesus’ words as we also heard in today’s gospel.

Not everyone accepts our words.

Not everyone knows what to say when it comes to divorce. I know I don’t. Sometimes silence - lots of silence as one listens - along with silent prayer - hopefully takes place - when we are trying to be present to another who is hurting.

Don’t forget today’s Psalm response: His mercy endures forever.

And lastly, as I began these rough comments about divorce, it’s good to try walking in the shoes of those who are dealing with a divorce - along with walking in the sandals and shoes of the children or divorce.

Quote for Today - August 16, 2013

"Choose a spouse more by your ear than by your eye."


Thursday, August 15, 2013



The title of my homily is, “Assumptions About Mary.”

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.


Yesterday morning  I had a funeral at St. Mary’s and there were over 100 people at the Mass. 

I sensed - like many funerals and weddings - various folks were not Catholic. 

I always think, hope, pray, that their experience will be holy, sacred, enriching, life giving, and they feel welcomed here at St. Mary's. 

I always pray that any visitor to our parish - whether they are tourists going through Annapolis - and they come to one of our two churches - or they are here for a wedding or a funeral - that their time here touches on their religious experiences and upbringing. I hope they get in touch with their spiritual - as well as their religious questions and needs or what have you - and they are challenged to enter into God’s presence anew.

Yesterday morning I’m standing in the back after the Funeral Mass and this lady - with a bright smile - says to me, “That was nice, but it would have been wonderful if the symbols were explained.”  

I paused. I think my mouth opened like this, [Open Mouth]  Then she said, “I’m not Christian - so I didn’t understand what was happening.”

Then someone else jumped into the situation - and the train was out of the station - and people were heading for the burial. Phew! Relief.  A, "What now?" bubble broke and vanished into thin air.

Well, when I sat down yesterday to come up with a homily for this feast - it hit me: “What would this lady wonder about - if she was here with a Catholic - who was coming to Mass for this feast of the Assumption  and then the two of them were going out for something to eat after Mass?" What would be that lady's questions?

Then it hit me: “What are our assumptions about the Assumption?”

Then it hit me - to make the title of my homily: “Assumptions About Mary.”


So for starters the assumptions people have about Mary would depend on who they are.

Is the other person Catholic or non-Catholic?

If the other person is non-Catholic, would they be Christian or what branch of Christianity?

With a slow growing awareness of Islam, people are hearing that Muslims mention Mary and honor her in the Koran. Joseph isn’t mentioned. There is a miraculous birth for Jesus - but Jesus is only a prophet - not God.

But I would not dare to make any other assumptions about Muslims and their understandings about Mary. I don’t know their sects - nor enough of their theology - other than reading the Koran and about 5 books on Islam.

I assume that some Protestant groups still make attacks and innuendos about Catholics and Mary. A man handed me an Anti-Catholic Chick Publication in the back of church - right after Mass a few Sunday's ago. It had some snide comments about Mary and Catholics. I also assume that some Protestant Churches honor Mary in various degrees. [1] I also assume very few people do their homework - and really communicate and study together about all this.


If someone asked us, “What about Mary? What do you Catholics say about Mary?” what would we answer?

I would think the best reaction would be a pause? Maybe the open mouth move would also be smart.

Maybe the message to come our of our mouth could be: “What do you mean? What are you wondering about?”

Should we say,  “That’s a good question.” I hear lots of people on TV making that comment. They must teach people to say that.

I would assume it’s smart to find out where the other person is coming from - what their questions are. Sometimes we jump into discussions - only to find out that the other person has an agenda and a position in the disguise of a question.

Next, I think it would be wise for all of us to clarify our assumptions about Mary.

I would assume in some situations the two main things we Catholics would say are: (1)  "We don’t see Mary as God - or a Goddess." And (2) "At the same time we see Mary as special."

If the person has an attack agenda - why go that way? Blessed are the peacemakers.


Now, should I end here or should I perhaps complicate all this with some further comments?

Let me try the following: as a Catholic, I would think we have 3 main assumptions about Mary.

The first would be that Mary was considered special, sacred, blessed, revered, honored  -  right from the beginning of Christianity - and still is today.

I pick up assumptions from some  non-Catholics that we Catholics got into Mary way after the Early Church.

Surprise! The Gospels themselves give evidence of Mary’s blessedness.  In today’s gospel we have the Magnificat. We hear Mary saying: “From this day all generations will call me blessed.” [Cf. Luke 46-55.]

I’ve never been in a challenge or a fight or what have you with non-Catholics on Mary or on anything - but I read that’s the text to use - if someone says and thinks this Mary stuff is a late development.  

However,  text fighting isn’t worth it . Isn’t that the genesis of the saying: "Even the devil can quote scripture"?

In the gospel we had for the Vigil Mass last night for this feast of the Assumption we have the , “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you were nursed” text.  And  Jesus replies, “Rather blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  [Cf. Luke 11: 27-28]

There’s the perfect balancing act. 

That’s a perfect peaceful talking point. 

There’s a theme that Vatican II stressed about Mary. At the time of our great Second Vatican Council, some wanted a separate document on Mary and then another document on the Church. Others at the Council stressed putting both together - and that's what happened. [2] Mary is the Model for the whole Church. Like her we are all called to hear the Word of  God and then put it into practice. And that Word is Jesus and Mary said, “Yes” to receiving that Word. She  became pregnant with that Word and brought that Word to our world - so too us. Great theology.

After beginning with the evidence of Mary in the scriptures I would consider for myself all the Christian buildings: churches, basilicas, cathedrals, shrines, chapels - around our world - named after Mary. Why argue with words - when stone and space and place scream loud and clear - about Saint Mary?

If you have a chance, before you die, put on your bucket list, Lourdes - if you haven’t been there yet. 

A priest in our 3rd year of high school said to us: “Before you die, go to Lourdes.” I finally got there in 1996 - with my 2 sisters and my brother-in-law. Our teacher also said, “If you get there, make sure you take the bath in the Lourdes water.”  I didn’t know what he meant till I did it. Then I understood.

I also heard a talk on a record by Charles Laughton, the actor, about Chartres in France as the Marian Shrine since 876 at least and then the big Cathedral of Chartres there that was finished in the 12th century. I had that on my bucket list and I caught a glimpse of what he said, when we got to Chartres on that  same trip in 1996. 

And our parish and downtown church, St. Mary’s - goes back to 1858.

All these buildings and we can add, all those paintings and statues of Mary in all those Churches - and many now in museums - say something. Let them do the talking to those who don't get the Catholic take on Mary.

My second set of assumptions would be Church statements about Mary - especially the Council of Ephesus in 431 - which used the word “Mother of God” - “Theotokos”  in Greek. Notice the date: 431. 

As Catholics we say that Mary is not just the Mother of Jesus - but the Mother of God. I don’t know if we get the implications in that. I don’t know if people can say that. It’s a great act of faith that her Son Jesus is not just human, but divine. Mary isn’t divine - but she brings Jesus into our world - as human - but he’s also Divine.

Mystery.... Mary is also big time mystery....

That’s what the scriptures are getting at in the great Mary texts our Bible - especially where we hear that she’s conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Here's the area where there should be big time fireworks for those who don’t get Catholicism and Mary. This where the Catholic Church after a long, long time finally proclaimed as dogmas Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Assumption. 

Catholics see this woman not as God - but as the one - a woman from Nazareth - one of us - who brought forth and still brings Christ to our world.

And my third and last assumption is that we can pray. We can talk to this woman. It's called prayer. But she's dead - some say. We say, because of Christ, she was assumed into heaven - and that's our hope and faith as well. We die - but we believe because of Christ, we rise. This is what we say the scriptures say. [3] The history of our church - gives plenty of evidence of Christians praying and believing this right from the beginning.


So on this feast of Mary, let us conclude by saying together, one Hail Mary and while saying it, please notice in Part 2 - the non-Scripture part of the Hail Mary, the words “Holy Mary, Mother of God.”  Let’s unite ourselves to all those in our world praying to Mary today to bring us and our world to her Son, Jesus and to one another.



On top: Theokos Icon - Our Lady of Kazan - popular in Russia since the 16th Century.

[1]  Here are a whole series of quotes and comments concerning Luther and Mary that I found on line: 

"There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith . . . It is enough to know that she lives in Christ. (Sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time Martin Luther preached on the Feast of the Assumption)

"The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart." (Sermon, September 1, 1522)

"[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures." (Sermon, Christmas, 1531)

"No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity." (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537)

"One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace . . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ . . . Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God." (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521)

"It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother." (Sermon, Christmas, 1522)

"Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees . . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother." (Sermon, Christmas, 1529)

"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin." (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527)

"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin- something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil." (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522)

"Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. {Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30)  Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539)}

"Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers." {Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539)}

"A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . . "{Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523)}

"When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom." {Pelikan, ibid., v.45:206,212-3 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }

". . . she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. . . . God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. . . . God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her." (Luther's Works, American edition, vol. 43, p. 40, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968)

". . . she is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God. . . . it is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God." {Sermon on John 14. 16: Luther's Works (St. Louis, ed. Jaroslav, Pelican, Concordia. vol. 24. p. 107)}

"Christ our Savior was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb. . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that." (On the Gospel of St. John: Luther's Works, vol. 22. p. 23, ed. Jaroslav Pelican, Concordia, 1957)

"Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees." (From the Commentary on the Magnificat)

Editor Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran) adds:

"Luther . . . does not even consider the possibility that Mary might have had other children than Jesus. This is consistent with his lifelong acceptance of the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary." {Pelican, ibid.,v.22:214-5}

". . . in the resolutions of the 95 theses Luther rejects every blasphemy against the Virgin, and thinks that one should ask for pardon for any evil said or thought against her." ( Ref: Wm. J. Cole, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" in Marian Studies 1970, p. 116:)

"In Luther's Explanation of the Magnificat in 1521, he begins and ends with an invocation to Mary, which Wright feels compelled to call 'surprising'". (David F. Wright, Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspecive, London: Marshall Pickering, 1989, p. 178, Cited from Faith and  Reason, Spring 1994, p. 6.)

[2] Cf. Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter VIII, "The Role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church," November 21, 1964

[3] It's not one of the texts for this feast of the Assumption - but read the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians.

Quote for Today - August 15, 2013

"The grave and death could not hold the Mother of God. She is unceasing in prayers. She is our strong hope by her protection. She is the Mother of Life. The One who lived within the ever Virgin has taken her away into life."

Byzantine Menaea, Kontakion for the Feast, (Dated from around the 6th century.)

Painting: Assumption of Mary in the Bayern, Reischenbach Church, by Johnan Gebhard - c. 1750

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Quote for Today - August 14, 2013

"The best way to keep from stepping on other people's toes is to put yourself in their shoes."


Tuesday, August 13, 2013



The title of my homily for this 19th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Who Is The Leastest in the Kingdom of Earth?”

I’m contrasting that title with the question which appears in the opening sentence of today’s gospel, “The disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?’” [Cf. Matthew 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14]  

Who is the least in the Kingdom of Earth? Who is considered to be on the bottom the ladder?

Is it a family or someone  living under the bridge on Rowe Blvd? Is the people sitting forever on that black bench on the edge of West Street and Church Circle? Is that guy in dirty jeans and beard and fading brown T-shirt who walks all over Annapolis every day?

And looking at our world, whom do we consider the least? Is it the person we devalue in our mind the most? Is it the person with different religious or political or social values than us?


We can also get at all this by looking at the top of the ladder? Whom do we think is the greatest?

I understand that people hid out in the confessionals when Pat Sajak of Wheel of Fortune fame was married here. If 4 Orioles or Nationals or Redskins or Ravens players were in a restaurant which we were in, would we sense that they are more important than the  Hispanic bus boy or the 66 year old waitress.  Of course to be honest, if they were Giants, I’d look up to them.

Who are the top people in our estimation? How do we calculate? By age or car or cash or job or title or looks or clothes?


We heard in today’s gospel how Jesus called a child over and placed him or her in their midst. That’s how he answered his disciples question, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Become humble like a little child. Welcome little children in your midst and you’ll discover the kingdom - as well as the meaning of life.

Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh in their Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels present  a picture of how people saw children in the time of Jesus. The authors say we see these cute little children standing in front of Jesus with great smiles and sweet disposition. They report that in Jesus’ time children were seen as the “weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Infant mortality rates sometimes reached 30 percent. Another 30 percent of live births were dead by age six, and 60 percent were gone by age sixteen.”  They go on, “Recent estimates are that in excess of 70 percent  would have lost one or both parents before reaching puberty.” Then they close that comment by saying, “It is no wonder that antiquity glorified youth and venerated old age.” [p. 117]  Keep that in mind on why in the first reading -  we have that folk law legend of Moses living till at least 120. [Cf. Deuteronomy 32: 3-4ab, 7, 8, 9, and 12]

So in ancient times there was a lot of sickness and coughing and widows and orphans in each neighborhood - and lots of funerals. And families often had to live together in the same house - because of the horrors of sickness and death - so people didn’t seem that great - especially the feeling of being dragged down by all kinds of sick kids or kids without parents.

So for Jesus to put a little kid like that on a pedestal - that was a bold statement - and then he adds shepherds - stinky, smelly shepherds who slept in the fields - and were rarely home - are people to be honored.  Don’t you love it that Pope Francis is telling bishops to driver simpler cars and smell like shepherds.


St. Mary’s has chosen as it’s theme for this year: “Every person matters.” There’s the gospel message in miniature. That’s evangelization. Let’s not complicate it with thousands of words. There’s the secret of life: See and treat every person. little, old, stinky or perfumed - as the greatest - that they matter to you.

Then feel what’s happening to the lines and wrinkles on your face and on the skin of your soul.


Quote for Today - August 13, 2013

"People don't care how much we know until they know how much we care."


Monday, August 12, 2013



The title of my homily for this 19th Monday in Ordinary Time  is, “Hooks! The Hooks of Scripture.”

Any  of us who have ever “Gone Fishing!” know what a fish hook looks like. You put a worm or a fly or some fish on it - and you drop it into the water below with the hope that fish will bite.

Everyone knows the metaphor: being hooked.

We’ve all said about someone or something, “I’m hooked.”

As in “Hooked on phonics!”  As in “Hooked on chocolate!”

Or as Claudio says to Leonato - so only he can hear - in Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing, “Bait the hook well: this fish will bite.” Act 2, Scene 3.

The title of my homily is, “Hooks: The Hooks of Scripture.”


By now - especially if you come to weekday Mass, everyone has their favorite book in the Bible and their favorite text in the Bible. 

I hope you do - if you don’t - I hope that comment  - especially the word “everyone” - hooked you to sit down and come up with your favorite book and favorite text.

Have you ever read the Letter to James or Isaiah  or some other book in the library of the Bible and said, “I’m hooked.”   A text grabs you. A whole book grabs you. We’re hooked. We want more!


I got this thought about being hooked when reading today’s gospel - Matthew 17: 22-27 - when Jesus tells his disciples to go fishing. Jesus says,
“… go to the sea, drop in a hook,
and take the first fish that comes up.
Open its mouth
and you will find a coin worth twice 
the temple tax.
Give that to them for me and for you.”

I always found that a fascinating text and story. It hooks me. It tells me that Jesus knows how to fish. It also tells me that he knows about temple taxes - and census taxes - and people were taxed big time in his time. So what else is new?

In my 48 years of being a priest I discovered that the Bible readings for Mass are a whole fishing box of hooks. To come up with a homily I read the readings - and see what hooks me. I also know that there’s a dilemma here. I realize that a lot of other people are reading and hearing the same words and something else hooks them - and they are being dragged down river by that hook and I’m off on something else - so they are disappointed because I’m not dealing with what hooked them and what I’m talking about didn’t hook them.  Reality.

Solution. Get a Good Bible - read at will. Get hooked. Have a Bible commentary and look up more info on what hooked you. Or simply type it into Google and see where that takes you. Fascinating. Go fishing. Compose your own homily. Preach to yourself.

Or you can take the whole Gospel  text for the Day and say, “Now what does this text tell me?” Then jot down 1 liners. Today’s gospel tells me about taxes - religious and civil. Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus told his disciples long before it happened that he was heading for Jerusalem to face his destiny - and they had became terrified when they heard him say he would be handed over and killed.  

Or today’s first reading - Deuteronomy  10: 12-22 - has a shining hook. Moses is quoted as saying, “Befriend the alien.” What a sneaky hook. Imagine someone who is screaming about illegal aliens and they read that. And they say, “Oops!” Then they hear Moses say, “for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” Ooops. Imagine someone who is screaming about illegal aliens and they forget their parents or grand parents were from “the other shore” and they made it big in America.

Imagine if that hooked them big time and they backtracked to the sentence before that and they read,

            “For the LORD, your God, 
             is the God of gods,
             the LORD of lords, 

             the great God, 
             mighty and awesome,
             who has no favorites, 

             accepts no bribes;
             who executes justice 

             for the orphan and the widow,
             and befriends the alien, 

             feeding and clothing him.”

That hooks them and the reader starts thinking, “Oh my God, everyone complains about the aliens and those who were without - those who are looking for food and clothing. All the world - in every place - must complain about the stuck and the stranger - the poor and the alien. Why can’t they get a job? Why didn’t they stay where they come from?”*


The title of my homily is, “Hooked! The Hooks of Scripture.”

Be careful of what you read and what you hear. It can be addictive. It can hook you. It can hurt.

* For the sake of transparency my mom and dad came from a foreign country (Ireland) and besides English spoke a foreign language. 

Quote for Today - August 12, 2013

"I get by with a little help from my friends."

Beatles song, "A Little Help from My Friends" [1967]


Name 3 friends and spell out in words - in particulars -  how they have helped you?

Sunday, August 11, 2013



The title of my homily for this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C -  is, “Models: The 3 Steps in How We Learn.”

Today’s second reading from The Letter to the Hebrews talks about Abraham being a model of faith.

Today’s gospel talks about how to be a good disciple of Jesus. How?  Be a model servant.

So this sermon is about modeling. It’s one of the key ways we learn.

People - especially parents - spend gazillions of dollars on education. Maybe it’s wise to look at the most fundamental method of learning: we learn by models. We learn by example. We absorb what we see and hear and notice happening all around us.

After finishing this sermon I said to myself, “Da! No kidding.” I also said this sermon is too simple. However, I don’t and won’t  know about you, but in writing this homily, it helped me clarify  - to put into words - the obvious for myself.


Learning has 3 steps: Awareness, Decision, PracticeA D P

For children that second step - Decision - is a tricky one.  The decision might be made for them. They might not be given a choice. This is how you hold a spoon to eat your cereal. This is what you do with your toys. You put them back in the toy box. You don’t hit your sister on the way into the restaurant. You hold the door for us older people. We go to church on Sunday as a family.

Many times, we are not aware that this world we're in is a classroom. Every day is a learning experience. Every day we're picking up things. So children in Vietnam learn to speak Vietnamese - just by being there.

Kids and adults around the world without thinking start singing some sort of “Happy Birthday,”  if someone else starts signing it - after announcing it’s so and so’s birthday.

Awareness - Decision - Practice - A D P - 3 steps.


It ‘s good to become aware of what we are becoming aware of.

The little kid becomes aware of the other little kid with an ice cream cone - and says, “Mom, dad, can we get ice cream?”


Advertising is all about making people aware of Levi jeans and Taco Bell and Dodge Trucks.

People are dressing for success and notice and awareness every day of their lives. “Hey! Look at me!”

People are meeting at conference tables every work day - on how to make people aware of their products.  Marketing is major!

We try to market ourselves and our interests and our will - what we want -  every day of our lives as well.

It’s good to be aware of the signals we're getting and the signals we are giving off.

It’s not good to be blind.

It’s not good to go through life sleep-walking.


At some point in life - it’s good to step back - and make some key decisions.

Who’s pushing my buttons?

Do I really want what I’m about to put into practice?

Do I really want to eat all these French fries?

Do I really want to watch this TV program with all these commercials?

The remote has a mute, off-on, and channel switching buttons.

What are my options? What are my choices? How free am I?

What are my commitments? What are my responsibilities? What have I already agreed upon. Can we renegotiate.


Am I practicing what I preach?

Am I all talk - and I’m actually contradicting myself with the practical ways I live my life?

Oh that’s what a hypocrite is? It’s a phony? It’s living a lie.

It’s easy to talk the talk. It’s difficult to walk the walk.

This third step: the practice - is worth looking at.

St. Paul is the one who brought up the question: why do I tell myself I’m going to do this and I go out and do the opposite every time? Lord, why do I do that?

People addicted to food and porn and booze and pills - have ever been thankful that even a Saint knew this about being a human being. We can be a bundle of contradictions.

Wisdom figures - those with Ph. D.s and those with burns and cuts on their hands from work in the kitchen or the factory - have always said: “The proof is in the pudding.”

Well married spouses have always related to the song line, “Don’t talk about love, show me!”

How many people have taken up the trombone or tuba or piano or step master or jogging or walking - and lasted two weeks with their resolution?

Everyone over 40 gets the old story and old  saying: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Answer: Practice! Practice!  Practice!”

So practice - the 3rd step in the learning process is the proof we’ve somewhat figured out numbers 1 and 2, the awareness and then the decision.


So today’s 3 readings follow these three steps. They  try to make folks aware of certain things - then choose from our consideration of what we’ve become aware and then to put into practice - what we have become aware of and what we have chosen.

So the Jews - as we heard in today’s first reading - are told about the Passover - how their ancestors knew about the covenant and the oaths included in it - and how things fell apart and they were punished when they failed to choose it and put it into practice -  and blessed when they did.

In the Second Reading Abraham is placed on a pedestal - and we’re told about his faith - to be aware of this man’s faith - and how we chose God each time and put into practice his faith.

In today’s gospel we are made aware of  how to be a good disciple of Jesus. Don’t be afraid. Give alms. The real treasures are in heaven.  Be ready to meet the Lord whenever he comes. And not to be a sleepy, lazy - bullying or obnoxious servant.


In this homily I’ve tried to outline the 3 steps in the learning process:
                          and then Practice. 

A D P - Life is an All Day Practice.

The obvious deeper message is this: we are called to be models - examples. Then when people see us - without knowing it - they imitate us and we imitate them.

The obvious practical message is: we impact each other by the smile on our face, the kind word, the forgiveness we give to those who blew it, the admitting when we make a mistake, the courtesy we give in the parking lot after this mass, and wait, before we get there: the by just being here for Mass together we are saying a lot to each other. Amen. 

Quote for Today - August 11, 2013

"I do occasionally envy the person who is religious naturally, without being brainwashed into it or suckered into by all the organized hustles. Just like having an ear for music or something. It would just never occur to such a person for a second that the world isn't about something."

Woody Allen, Rolling Stone, 1987

Question: What is that something for you?