Quote for Today - September 20, 2013 "There are two kinds of talents, man-made talent and God-given talent. With man-made talent you have to work very hard. With God-given talent you just touch it up once in a while." Pearl Bailey, Newsweek, December 4, 1967
Questions: What's your take on that comment? Name your # 1 God-given talent? Name your # 1 you've worked to have talent?
Quote for Today - September 19, 2013 "Religion is not an opiate, for religion does not help people to forget, but to remember.It does not dull people. It does not say Take, but Give." Bede Jarrett, The Catholic Mother, 1956
Quote for Today - September 18, 2013 "I know what these people want; I have seen them pick up my violin and turn it over in their hands. They may not know it themselves, but they want music, not by the ticketful, the purseful, but music as it should be had, music at home, a part of daily life, a thing as necessary, as satisfying, as the midday meal. They want to play. And they are kept back by the absurd, the mistaken, the wicked notion that in order to play an instrument one must be possessed by that bogey called Talent." Catherine Drinker Brown, Friends and Fiddlers, 1934
The title of my homily for this 24 Tuesday in Ordinary Time
is, “Pick Me Out A Winner, Bobby.”
If you saw the 1984 baseball movie, “The
Natural,” starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, you’ll remember the big
scene near the end of the movie when Roy Hobbs breaks his bat in the ninth inning - his favorite and only
bat - and says to the batboy, Bobby Savoy, “Pick Me Out A Winner, Bobby.” “Pick me out a winner, Bobby!”
And Bobby does. He
hands him his Savoy Special - and Roy Hobbs hits this big time, - big hit -
home run - and they win the pennant and
Roy Hobbs saves the team from being gobbled up by the bad guys.
“Pick Me Out A Winner, Bobby.”
TODAY’S FIRST READING: QUALIFICATIONS
FOR BISHOPS AND DEACONS - HOPING FOR A WINNER!
Today’s first reading has this great text from 1st Timothy - on the
qualifications necessary for a bishop and a deacon as well as being an
outstanding woman in the community. [Cf. 3: 1-13]
I’m sure as you listened to today’s 1st reading -
a document from around the year 100 more or less - you had a thought or two
about church and bishops - maybe priests - who aren’t mentioned - as well as deacons
- who are mentioned.
Paul in this pastoral letter to Timothy gives a great bucket
wish list for the ideal bishop or pastor: - A bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle not contentious, not a lover of money. - He has to be able to control and manage his own house well. - He should not be a recent convert. - He must have a good reputation.
The qualifications 1st Timothy lists for deacons
- They be dignified, not deceitful, - They are not addicted to drink [There must have been a lot of drinking going on ...], -They are not greedy for sordid gain, - They have faith and a clear conscience, - They too should be married only once. Women in the local community are also given a list of
- They too should be dignified, - They should not be slanderers, - They too should manage their house and children well. I assume that the key behind these lists is the hope of
picking a winner - choosing a good pastor - choosing a good leader.
When the bat is broken - the athlete looks for a new bat….
When a pope, a bishop, a pastor, a leader dies or steps down or retires or is
changed or is broken, the group moves to come up with a new person to put in
charge. I assume the members of the group, in this case the
Church, are crying out: “Pick us a winner, Bobby. Pick us a winner.”
In our lifetime we have seen popes, bishops, pastors,
priests, principals, deacons, heads of committees, leaders, officials, come and
go. We have a primary election here in Annapolis
today - and elections all around the place.
Pick us a winner, Bobby.
When it comes to Church - besides your comments and
observations - what are your hopes and qualifications for leaders? We all have
them - more or less.
It’s a good topic for breakfast or a coffee break.
Last night I wrote down the following first draft comments
about all this.
Paul has a great list here in 1st Timothy. It
tells us that the Church has developed and changed and grown since its
beginnings. The gospels talk about
apostles, disciples, prophets and followers. In time we hear about bishops,
deacons and priests. There is mention from time to time of women in leadership
positions. There is scholarship and articles and books on whether there were
women deacons in the church - and what they did. First observation: there is
Next there are lists of qualifications down through our 2000
years of history. Evidently - this is the obvious thing to do. What does your
list look like?
Besides spoken or written qualifications necessary in a
leader, I assume that there are also unwritten qualifications and things going
on when it comes to replacements: hidden agendas - pay backs - lobbying - etc. Transparency
An obvious comment to make is this: when it comes to picking
a pope or bishop or pastor, the pool is not that big. We have to deal with the
people we have - not the non-existent super heroes - that people want and hope
for. There are only so many 300 hitters. Some parishes and some dioceses might
not get Bishop Supergreat!
Next comment: most of us are not in on the pick. We don’t
get a vote. Sometimes we get a voice - or some folks get a voice. Few get a
vote - before the white smoke tells us we have a new pope. Tuesday is the usual day for listings from the
Vatican of a new bishop for Venice or Vienna or Venezuela. We
only read about it. The Church is not that democratic.
I’ve discovered the 1/3 rule - when it comes to being a
priest. 1/3 like you; 1/3 don’t like you; 1/3 really don’t care. Our new pope
seems to be saying presence and reaching out to folks with TLC is more
important for priests and bishops than academic achievements. St. Teresa if Avila said something to
the effect that she likes smart priests much more than stupid holy priests.
And this new pope of ours is certainly different than the
last pope and the one before that and one before that and the one before that.
Some are comparing him however, to Pope John XXIII.
This pope is talking about the attitudes he’d like to see in
bishops: that they don’t want the job, that they smell like sheep, that they
are listeners, that they are servants, less pomp, and please find yourself in
more circumstances on the margins with the poor and isolated. He certainly is
for less words and more action. Take the bus. Visit prisons. Wash feet. Don’t
eat alone - eat with the community. Shake hands and mix and be with the crowd. Simplicity.
Simplicity. More simplicity.
When people ask me my take on the new pope: I always say,
“We’ll see. We’ll see.” I say that
because time will tell - like 100 years after his death - how he did - who he
was. Moreover, who knows, perhaps 500 years from now - when talking about a
pope, someone might say, “Well, it was only after her death, we realized ….”
I assume the following: if there is anything we can be sure
about it’s this: death and change.
If there is anything we have faith about, it’s this: Jesus is
Lord and he keeps saying to us as he says to the young man in today’s gospel: “Rise!
Stop being dead!”
"We can listen to lectures, read books, see films and slides, and talk to travelers, but nothing can compare with actually going there ourselves. Then, we can absorb impressions by all five senses. We seethe Lake of Galilee and the undulating hills of Samaria with our own eyes. We hear the noise of bargaining in the market place and the bleating of a mixed flock of sheep and goats. We touch an old gnarled olive tree, or let the waters of the River Jordan trickle through our fingers. We taste the juice of the grapes of Israel or the sweetness of a fig or orange or pomegranate. We smell the scent of the flowers of the field. And the whole Bible comes alive! We have discovered the land for ourselves" John Scott, Between Two Worlds. Eerdmanns, Grand Rapids, 1982, page 79
The title of my homily for this 24 Monday in Ordinary Time is, “Seven Lessons On How To Pray.”
When we want to grow in prayer, one of the questions we
ask is: “Lord, teach me how to pray.” FIRST LESSON: ASK THE LORD TO TEACH US HOW TO PRAY!
Simply say, "Lord, teach me how to pray?" That's a great prayer in itself. We’re going to hear that
question specifically in Luke 11:1-4 - a weekday gospel in a few weeks - Wednesday -
the 27th Week of the Church Year - October 9th, this
In the meanwhile, to help with this First Lesson in praying, I suggest using your rosary for saying 59
times on your beads, “Lord, teach me how to pray?” It can take roughly 2 minutes to say that short prayer - 59 times - with one's rosary beads - or just say it one time slowly.
IN TODAY’S READINGS
In today’s readings we have six more "Lessons In How To
Pray,” which is basic message of this homily.
SECOND LESSON: PRAY FOR OTHERS!
In today's first reading from 1st Timothy 2: 1-8, Paul tells us: "When we pray, offer supplications, prayers,
petitions and thanksgivings for everyone." We understand that. It’s the prayer
of the faithful at Mass, etc. We can do that whenever we pray - praying for presidents around our world, governors, leaders, mayors,
bishops, popes, doctors, lawyers, teachers, parents, grandparents, babies, truck drivers, pilots, those serving one's country, etc.
THIRD LESSON: USE PRAYER GESTURES.
In today's first reading Paul also tells us that when we pray, we can lift up our hands in
gesture - to our one God. This idea of using gestures when praying also appears in our Psalm for today. We can
open our arms up like this [full
outstretched arms gesture - as if we are Jesus - as if we are on the cross as well.] Or we can cup our hands in a receiving
gesture - as if we were filling our hands with water to drink or the Eucharist to
receive Christ. [Gesture - open hands.]
FOURTH LESSON: FACE A SACRED PLACE! When we pray, turn and face the direction of this
church or any church we love and like. That lesson is in today’s Psalm
28. I notice in walking around downtown Annapolis, it’s easy to
spot the golden cross and tall thin steeple of St. Mary’s Church. I notice in
walking around the hospital, there are some upper windows and rooms one can
spot where St. John Neumann’s church is.
FIFTH LESSON: SEE ONESELF AS AN ANOINTED PRIEST - WHOSE CALLING IT IS TO PRAY. Today’s Psalm 28 also brings out that we are
anointed. We Christians would add that at our baptism we are anointed
prophet’s, priests, and kings. As priests we are ordained to be people of
prayer. So Christian men and women are anointed in our baptism to not just be prophets and kings and
queens, but also to be priests - a key task of which is to be one who prays for others.
SIXTH LESSON: SEE GOD AS OUR STRENGTH AND HIDING PLACE. Today’s Psalm 28 also brings out that God is
our strength. God is our shield. God is our refuge (we know what a wild life
refuge is or a "man cave" is.) See God as a hiding place - a cave - an inner room - and spend time in one's God Escape.
SEVENTH LESSON: IMITATE THE CENTURION Today’s gospel - Luke 7: 1-10 - gives us the background story
of one of our Mass prayers. The new
translation has brought back the old translation: “Lord, I am not worthy that
you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be
healed.” So today and every Mass,
picture yourself as having the faith the centurion had and pray that prayer
like the centurion did. Amen
The title of my homily is, “Seven Lessons On How To Pray.”
There they are - 6 Lessons from today’s readings and one from the Gospel of Luke. Amen.
"The Beatles are not merely awful .... They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic." William F. Buckley Jr. News Summaries, September 8, 1964
[I had a different homily - a story called "Lost Sheep" for this morning. I didn’t sense it had a grab - so I decided to present the 3 Stories
in today’s gospel - Luke 15 - in other words. Let me
see if this has a grab. I’ll be watching your faces and trying to get a sense
of where you are this evening.]
OF THE LOST TEETH
[This first story I
call "The Parable of the Lost Teeth." I present it as a matching story for the Parable of the
Lost Sheep - which we heard tonight.]
It was my first
assignment as a priest: Most Holy Redeemer Parish - Lower East Side of
Manhattan, New York City. The job I found the most interesting as a priest was Bingo:
being in charge of Bingo - every Wednesday night. What a cast of characters!
What a wealth of stories.
It was Thursday
morning and Tessie - one of the lunch ladies over at our school - where the
Bingo was played - called over to the rectory and asked, “Father did anyone
find a pair of teeth in the kitchen last night at Bingo?”
I answered, “No
“Well,” she said, “I
forgot there was Bingo and I never work school lunch with my teeth in. I keep them in
a Styrofoam cup in a napkin on a shelf - and I left my teeth there by accident.”
“I’ll be right
over,” I said.
I figured one of the
Bingo workers in the kitchen simply scooped up the Styrofoam cup and tossed it
in the garbage.
I went out the back
way - over to Fourth Street where our school was - and said, “Oh no!”
I spotted a garbage
truck up the street and they will be at our garbage bags in minutes.
I ran into the
school - spotted Tessie in her white kitchen uniform and told her to grab at
least 10 big empty plastic garbage bags.
That’s about how
many full bags of garbage I saw on the sidewalk - just outside the school.
We began opening
them up one by one. You should see the stuff that’s in garbage bags on a
Thursday morning after lunch the past 3 days and Bingo the night before.
“Look into every Styrofoam
cup!” I said.
Too late the garbage
men were there.
“What are looking
With tears in her eyes - along with a laugh in her toothless mouth - she said,
“My teeth. There in here somewhere.”
They turned off the motor and the search continued.
On the fourth bag, one of the garbage men, with work gloves pulled out her
teeth - waved them in the air - and
screamed to Tessie, “Got em!”
She moved towards
him with a big embrace - took the teeth and said, “Come on it boys! Let me get
something to eat!”
And we all went in to help her celebrate. She must have washed her teeth, because she came out with her teeth in place and
some delicious chocolate sheet cake and sodas or coffee for all.
[This second story I wrote today to match The parable of the Lost Coin.] It was a 1964 John F. Kennedy silver 50 cent piece.
His dad had given it to him on a Sunday evening - when he
was 5 years old - just after they said prayers together - just before he went
His dad kissed him good-night and said, “I’ll see you when I
get back next Friday.”
His dad was leaving early - early the next morning - for a
business trip to Montana.
His dad was killed in a car accident in Montana that Tuesday afternoon.
The little boy held that 50 cent silver piece in his hand
all through the funeral - and then all through his life - taking it out -
holding it tight - when he needed his dad’s strength in tough times. It was his
connection to his dad. He never lost it. He simply kept it in his side pocket -
but that day it must have slipped out
when he was changing pants.
That day their house caught fire. It was burnt to the
ground. Nobody was hurt “Thank God” - but as he stood there in the street
surrounded by fire trucks - and his wife - he reached in his pocket for the 50
cent piece. It wasn’t there.
“Ooops,” he thought. "Oh no! It must have fell out this morning."
When things cooled off the search began. Everything was
burnt - pictures and keepsakes - everything was burn - and destroyed - but he
kept looking and looking and looking - in their bedroom area.
There it was - darkened by the fire and the burn - but there
it was - and once more he knew everything would be all right.
THE LOST SON
[This third story is a story poem I wrote years ago. It's in my book, Cries .... But Silent - which has around 160 of these short pieces. This matches the Parable of the Prodigal Son and is called, "The Lost Son".]
I wasn’t paying attention. I tend to be that way. Things
Late morning I was somewhere in the middle of the pack - but
as we moved into the heat of the afternoon, I found myself at the tail end of
Yes, that’s me. This wasn’t the first time I was the last
To be honest, I still
don’t know how all this happened - how I got lost.
When I looked up from some delicious grass I was chomping
on, I saw everyone had disappeared. It was then I saw a path that I thought the
others had taken. The further I went down it, the more I realized I guess they
didn’t. They must have moved in some other direction - gone some other way.
I found myself on my own - literally in the middle of
I turned back - and got even more lost. Now what?
I decided to climb to the top of a ridge. Maybe from up there I’d spot my
shepherd and the rest of the sheep. Half way up I got caught - in some brambles
and some thickets.
“Oooh!” I said, “These thorns hurt - even getting into and
under my skin.”
I could feel blood oozing out of my side - even where I was
thick skinned and thick wooled.
If I turned right, “Oooh! Ouch!” If I turned to my left, “Oooh! Ouch!”
I started screaming, “Baa! Baa! Baa!”
But soon I got tired and I got scared.
Sheep are called stupid. Well I was stupid for lagging behind and getting lost - once again.
But I’m not that stupid to keep baaing - just in case wolves would be prowling
around in the hills in the early evening - looking around for a supper like me.
The sun went down!
Now I was really in the dark - very scared - frightened - and
Back in the sheep pen - the shepherd stood at the gate of
the pen - counting his sheep. “96, 97, 98, 99,”
“Ooops,” the shepherd said, “I must have miscounted.”
He tried two more times. Each time he came up with 99. One was missing.
He called together the other shepherds who also had their
sheep in this big pen in the desert and
told them he had lost one of his sheep and he was going to go out and look for him
- and find him.
They said, “You’re crazy! Wait till morning! Wait till
tomorrow and go back the way you came today.”
He said, “Are you crazy! The poor fellow is going to panic
in the dark night. I have to go find him.”
He asked a friendlier shepherd to guard his sheep for the
meanwhile. He made a torch and he went in search of his lost sheep.
There was an almost full moon that night - but clouds were coming and going
- past the moon - sometimes blocking out the light.
All the while the shepherd kept calling out the missing
All the while there was silence and the noises of the night.
At times he said to himself, “This is crazy!”
But nope, he wouldn’t give up. He had to find his lost
He came to a fork in the road - and wondered if his lost
sheep had taken the wrong turn, the wrong path here, the wrong way here.
He took the smaller path and keep calling the sheep’s name.
Surprise, he heard a faint “Baa!” - and then a louder one -
With torch in hand he scampered up the hill and found his
It was difficult to see, but he saw that his lost sheep was
pretty cut up - probably from when he was trying to get out of these brambles
and these thorns.
The shepherd cut himself as he tried to free his sheep. He too started to bleed.
Finally, his lost sheep was free and the shepherd hugged him
and put him up around his shoulders and brought him back to his pen and his
He woke all the sheep as he returned shouting. They were thinking as they saw the 100th sheep on the shepherd's shoulders, “Not him again!”
He also woke all the other shepherds - calling to them, “Celebrate
with me! My lost sheep is found.”
He had some bread and some wine - and he shared all he had
with his fellow shepherds. And there was music and dancing in that small
community in the hills that midnight or maybe it was two in the morning - whenever
Two days later Jesus was in the carpenter shop - and a
customer - a shepherd - was telling Joseph about what happened two nights
before - how this dumb shepherd left his 99 sheep and went in search for his lost
sheep in the night - and he found him - and threw a party for him.
For years Jesus turned that story around in his mind -
wondering how he would tell it some day. He cut it and carved it - taking some
parts out and then gluing some parts back together again. He didn’t know
whether to have the lost sheep have a cut foot - and that’s why he lagged
behind - and get people not to judge others. No he left the story sort of as is
- because he would hear so many people complaining about others who messed up -
and they could never see how they were messed up themselves at times.
“Come to think about it,” Jesus said to himself, “that Lost
Sheep story is just like the story I heard about the woman who lost one of her
10 coins - and she too threw a party when she found it.”
And then Jesus thought, “What would have happened if that
woman and that shepherd didn’t go searching - and the coin or the sheep turned
up anyway. Then what?”
Jesus thought about this, and thought about that, and said,
“Okay, that’s where that story I heard about the two brothers and their father
can come in. One brother messed up. One brother wouldn’t forgive his brother’s
mess up. And one day the father who waited and watched and watched and waited,
and waited, for his son to come home. Sure enough he did and his father was so overjoyed - that he threw a big party for his Lost Son who was back home once again. And his
older brother - wouldn’t - couldn’t celebrate - couldn’t come into the house -
couldn’t come to communion. Oooh!” ____________________________ Top picture: Doron Art
"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people." Carl Jung in a "Letter to a former student on reassessing religious values outlined to Sigmund Freud a half century earlier, quoted in Gerhard Adler ed Letters, Vol 1 Princeton 73" . Found on page 189 in Webster's II New Riverside Desk Quotations, James B Simpson, Home and Office Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, New York, London, 1992