Saturday, October 19, 2013



The title of my homily for this 28 Saturday in Ordinary Time is, “Faith and Law.”


As we know we’re going through the Book of Romans in these weekday Masses as our First Reading. As we know questions of the Law are central to St. Paul. It’s going to culminate especially in Chapter 7 - but the reality of “the Law” pops up over and over again in Romans and much of Paul - as well as in the gospels - with Jesus and his struggles with the Pharisees.

Today’s First Reading begins: “Brothers and sisters: It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendents that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith.”

When Paul was Saul he was furious with Christians because they were not keeping the Law. His goal was to arrest and eradicate them. Paul could be righteous to the zenith - because he thought he was right. Aren’t we all? Then he fell on his face and discovered Jesus in his blindness.


The title of my homily is, “Faith and Law.”

I was going to entitle it, “Faith or Law.”

I used “and” instead if “or: because I would assume that we begin with the law and then move to stronger motives: like that of faith and hope and charity.

I would assume that we teach kids  rules - without giving reasons - before they reach the age of reason.

We use the word “no” - to kids - as to not touching knives or hot things - or going too near the street - where cars can come flying by.

I assume we need laws - traffic laws - clean air and food laws - and rules and regulations to make life work smoothly.

But then I assume that somewhere along the line - when it comes to religion and God - we move from Law to Faith.

Recently someone said to me that they never liked the phrase, “Holy Day of Obligation” - but wished it was “Holy Day of Celebration.”

With so many people dropping out of Sunday Mass - I’ve heard statistics like 32 to 38% now go to Sunday Mass. Are there any statistics of people coming back - not because of the Sunday Mass obligation - but rather the Sunday Mass Celebration?

Question: Do I do what I do out of law or duty - or out of love and joy?

Haven’t we winced at the comment: “Of course I love you. I’m married to you.” Wouldn’t we celebrate each time a spouse said: “I love you!”

I became a Redemptorist to become a missionary in Brazil - but never got that assignment. I’ve heard of a  Redemptorist who spent his whole life being bitter - because he wanted to become a professor in the seminary - and instead he was sent to Brazil - and complained his way out of there - till he got reassigned to the States.

So the question: “Life: what is my central motivation? Duty, Law, Have to, or Love, Celebration, Want to?”

I’ve read about baseball players who were doing well - then get traded - and they do horrible - on their next team - then they get traded again - to a new team and they flourish. A reporter digs into the player’s life and we find out, he was angry and depressed - because he just couldn’t play for that second team - in the second city - not even out of duty or contract.


 Today we celebrate the feast of St. Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs - who came to North America - and served the Native Americans with great passion and dedication. 

We all remember hearing as kids how St. Isaac Jogues was tortured, freed by the Dutch, went back to France and then couldn’t wait to come back and continue his ministry or preaching about the love of Christ to the people here. He wasn’t here out of Law and Duty - but out of love.

So too all of us here at a Daily Mass of Celebration - not obligation. Amen.


Quote for Today - October 19, 2013

"We're all in this together ... alone."

Lily Tomlin

Friday, October 18, 2013


Quote for Today - October 18, 2013

"Some days you tame the tiger. And some days the tiger has you for lunch."

Tug McGraw

Quote for Today  - October 17, 2013

"Nostalgia is a seductive liar."

George W. Ball


Quote for Today October 16, 2013

"Never look for this year's birds in last year's nests."

Miguel de Cervantes

Tuesday, October 15, 2013



The title of my homily is, “Wisdom and Wisdom Teachers.”

Who have been your wisdom teachers? Who has given you your life wisdom?

Is there any wisdom teacher you’d would like to go to hear - to listen to her or his wisdom?

I was thinking last night - that  those are good questions. It’s good to reflect upon those who taught us the wisdom that is part of our lives. I think of at least 3 good teachers I’ve had - a few other people I’ve met along the way. The key is to not to first name the teacher - but to first name the wisdom - and then unravel, “Who was the one who taught me that.”

For example, one good specific wisdom learning I picked up was this: “You’re complaining about him - but give me a specific complaint.”  And sometimes that shuts me up or another up.” It can be worded with a two word question: “For example?”


Yesterday’s gospel talked about the Queen of the South coming to hear the wisdom of Solomon. It also talked about the Ninevites listening to Jonah and they were converted. Jesus made that comment when he saw the crowds listening to him - but many did not change or convert. Today’s gospel talks about Jesus at a dinner and Jesus notices the Pharisees once more concerned about externals - the outside - what you see. It’s not what you get. Then Jesus gives them the wisdom - that it’s the inside - the within - the person - one’s motives - the invisible - that counts.

Today’s first reading continues with the Letter of Paul to the Romans that we began yesterday - and we’ll have it as the first reading at daily Mass for about the next month.  Many people have listened to Paul - especially in his letter to the Romans and changed - like Augustine reading Romans 13: 11-14 - and he is changed - converted - after his long struggle. Notice in today’s first reading, how Paul goes from the known to the unknown - the seen to the unseen - to see the One who is behind and underneath - the one who is keeping us and all together.


Down through the years many people have read the writings of St. Teresa of Avila to sip her wisdom.

I like her take on prayer. She often uses simple clear images and pictures that everyone can understand. Who hasn’t understood her 4 stages of prayer?

The first stage is “Going to the well.” Prayer is seeing our soul like a garden and taking water from a well to water ourselves. Beginners in prayer have to start off small - like going to a specific place or prayer or prayer method.

The second stage is to get a garden hose. The person who sticks to prayer will find easier ways to water one’s garden.

The third stage is to pray near running water. It’s the message of Psalm 1. Be a live tree as opposed to a dead leaf. Lead a life that is bearing fruit. Prayer and action - and action and prayer work together. Talk isn’t enough.

And the fourth state is, “Sometimes it rains. Sometimes,  if we take time to just sit in prayer, we’ll grow and sometimes we’ll experience a downpour of God’s presence and love.

Of if we simply can’t pray, St. Teresa of Avila simply says to pray the Our Father slowly and with meaning.

We all know her comments about not letting anything disturb us. Of course it’s easier said than done. Yet listen to her words.

“Let nothing disturb you,
 let nothing cause you fear
All things pass.
God is unchanging.
Patience obtains all:
Whoever has God
needs nothing else.
God alone suffices.”    

A short cut is to say, “Nada” “Nothing!” inwardly - when someone or something is driving us nuts.

You know us priests, so I always liked her comment about "having a peculiar distrust of holy men who where stupid." (St Teresa of Avila, Bruce, 1943; TAN, 1987, p 75).

She went through a lot in her life - not only in her struggles with other nuns to reform the Carmelites - but also with the so called, “Thought Police”. In her life she was investigated by the Spanish Inquisition at least 6 times. Her books were investigated. The papal nuncio thought she was risky and restless and a disobedient woman. She was accused of heresy. So what else is new?

As you know, this has happened to lots of folks down through the years. Theologians are waiting to see how this Pope will be on all this. The wisdom I see in all this is the so called,  “Gamaliel Principle” - which you can find in the Acts of the Apostles. “If this is of God, in time we’ll know it. If it ain’t it will flop.” [Cf. Acts of the Apostles 5:34-39]


The title of my homily is, “Wisdom and Wisdom Teachers.”

Who are they? What specific wisdom insights have they given us? 

Quote for Today - October 15, 2013 - Feast of Teresa of Avila

"To give our Lord a perfect hospitality, you have to be a combination of Martha and Mary."

St. Teresa of Avila [1515-1582]

Painting, "Martha Reproving Her Sister Mary," by Orazio Gentileschi, 1620

Monday, October 14, 2013



The title of my thoughts for this 28th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “The Letter to the Romans.”

Starting today we’ll be hearing The Letter to the Romans as our first reading in weekday Masses for almost a month  I thought that a few comments might be helpful. At least that’s the way I think and operate.  I need the big picture before I start looking at the small picture.


Scholars like John L. McKenzie and Joseph Fitzmyer say, “Paul probably wrote Romans in Corinth or in Cenchreae sometime in the winter of AD 57-58….” I’ve also seen the year 61.  Either date gives us an idea when it was written. Note: it’s still ahead of the date of the gospels as we have them.


Some scholars say it was written to a Gentile Christian community in Rome while others say it was written to a Jewish Christian community in Rome.

Scholars point out that Paul had not visited Rome yet - but he would know some of its members  - or know of them. There is no New Testament evidence who started the Christian Community in Rome.

Paul was planning on visiting them - on his way to Spain. That was his dream.

In the meanwhile Paul goes back to Jerusalem with money he received as a collection for the church there.  Some think he wanted to use as a stress to the Jewish Christian community there - that the Gentiles are in solidarity with us. In the meanwhile he is arrested in Jerusalem and that is what will  bring him to Rome. When he gets to Rome he is under house arrest there for 2 years and then he is martyred around 67-68.


It does not contain all of the Christian teachings - for example there is nothing about the Eucharist.

Yet what it gives is powerful thoughts and significant theology. If you do any research on Romans, you’ll read comments like it having the most impact of any New Testament document on Christian theology down through the centuries.

For starters it has influence on other New Testament documents. It certainly shows up many times in the writings of the Early Church - for example St. Augustine. We’ll also see how it impacted Thomas Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Karl Barth and so many others.

His theology of faith and works, salvation, justification, redemption, grace, sin, righteousness, are big time issues at the time of the Reformation - as well as today.

Christ is our power - and we are powerless - but how powerless are we? I’m sure it depends upon what the struggle is. So Paul deals with these issues in this his most important letter: The Letter to the Romans.


So that’s a quick thumb nail commentary on this Letter to the Romans that we who go to daily Mass will be hearing in the next month. Listen carefully. Amen.


Picture on top: Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome, Italy, consecrated in the 4th Century

Quote for Today - October 14, 2013

"When we are not sure, we are alive."

Graham Green [1904-1991]

.... and surprise Columbus discovered America ....

Painting of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo [1485-1547]

Sunday, October 13, 2013


[The following is a story for this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time C - which I wrote after reflecting on today's first reading about Naaman the Syrian in the 2nd Book of Kings - Chapter 5 - who had a skin disease - and the 10 people in the gospel of Luke - Chapter 17 - who had skin diseases as well - and all are healed - and then the theme of thankfulness erupts.]

You wouldn’t know they were brothers.

You wouldn’t know they were twins.

But they were - they were brothers and they were twins.

But as I am about to  indicate in this story, they were different - as different as night and day - as different as blue and yellow - as different as sugar and pepper. They were different.

And their nicknames were “Think” and “Thank”. They picked them up - somewhere along the line - while traveling the time line of their lives. Interesting nicknames to say the least - Think and Thank - but like some nicknames they contained a deep truth.

So their nicknames fit each other, fit each brother, to the T.

But oops!  I’m getting ahead of the story - the story of  why  they picked up their nick names - and what kind of personality each was - in the first place.

In college - Tom - who became “Thank” - was tall and thin - 6 foot 2 - only 173 pounds - skin and bones. And to be honest - not that good looking. He could be gawky. He had  a big nose and big ears.

In college  - Terrence - who became “Think” - was the good looking one - 6 foot tall - 210 pounds  - smooth and savvy - who excelled in math. He was also an excellent running back - both in high school and now in playing college football.

You wouldn’t know they were brothers.

You wouldn’t know they were twins.

But they were: Terrence and Thomas - Think and Thank.

Tom’s face skin was quite scared - from a long serious season of teenage acne. At times in his teenage years,  classmates called him, “Leper!”

But aren’t we - really - who we really are - inside our skin? Yet  our face - our skin - our look - can define us - who we are - for a time. So it took time for Tom to become Tom - the thankful one.

But it really wasn’t till he spent time in college - that he realized - nicknames like “Leper” or “Ears” or “Nose” - really didn’t bug him that big. In fact Tom began to flourish in college. This happened somewhere along his Junior or Senior year at the same state college he and Terrence went to together. He learned that big groups really didn’t matter. Close friends did. He knew that those who knew him - loved and appreciated him whenever he walked into a room or a situation. He became Tom simply becoming Tom.

His friends discovered that Tom had this great gift of being thankful.  Once you caught that - you caught his personality. The big sparkle in his eyes - was bigger than his ears and his nose and the pockmarks on his cheeks and forehead from his acne.  The fun - the delight - the joy - the quick or cute comments he made about life and the passing scene - brought joy to the conversations he was part of. You might say the words he spoke or used were covered with a smooth skin.

So it was somewhere in the midst of the mix of many moments that his basic attitude towards life earned him the nickname, “Thank.”

Every meal - every cup of coffee - every trip  - every game - was always “a great time” - and he would always say, “Thank you.”

In fact, he was always the last one out of every restaurant - or pub - because he would track down the waiter or waitress - who served them and he would look them in the eye and say, “Thank you!”  And that “Thank you” was  better than any tip left on a restaurant table.

That was - and kept on getting stronger - the essence of this guy named “Tom” that I’m trying to describe for you today.

Terrence was different. It took time for him to acquire his nickname of “Think”. He sort of had an itch and edge in him.

So Terrence was just the opposite. He wasn’t the type to put butter on the bread of human relationships. The waiter or waitress, the coach - the musician, the teacher - better be the best - if they were to get a basic “Thank you!” from Terrence.

Terrence never became Terry. Thomas became Tom or Tommy by his very close friends - as well as “Thank” - in God’s good time.

If time is of the essence in all this, it took time for Terrence to become Think - but I better tell you now - it was never to his face. It was always just behind his back - in contrast to his twin brother “Thank” - who heard people call him that - out loud and to his face.

Terrence was the logical one. He had to figure everything out - especially motive. He could be suspicious - or “standbackish” at times.

If you’re not a twin - and I’m not one - so I’m not that sure about all this - but Think or Terrence - spent a lot of time trying to think just why his brother Tom was so different from him. Maybe it was because Tom was 7 minutes older than him - but come to think about that - it couldn’t be that. It had to be something else - so he kept on thinking about that one - on and off - much of his life. And much of his life comparing himself to his brother - made him feel uneasy - and uncomfortable. Something seemed unfair.

Tom - in contrast - never thought that much about their differences - just the joy - the comments that came up - whenever others found out he was a Terrence’s twin . “You guys are brothers!  You guys are twins! You’re kidding!”


Life went on….

Terrence got married three times - and he was divorced three times. His wives couldn’t live up to his standards of perfection. He thought it was vice versa - but they knew it was vice versa - when they finally broke away from him and got the divorce.

In fact, this is something - luckily - Terrence never found out about - but all three ex-wives - got together for lunch once - and then dinner - and then lunch again - and what they put together - were learnings for their own lives - that no college could teach. Each said they were relieved when the deal called “marriage” finally fell through - and when they finally figured some things out about their life choices.

And also - quietly behind Terrence’s back - his parents - Tom and Terrence’s parents - finally said to each other, “It’s sad - but Thank God our daughter-in-law’s got smart and got out from under Terrence.” This happened somewhere there - when their sons were in their mid 30’s. And they added, “Thank God Terrence had no kids.”

But they added, “Thank God Tommy had 3 kids” - their 3 grandkids who were a delight - and a joy - and gave them great meaning as they moved into  the autumn and winter seasons of their lives.

Sad to say Terrence’s face become somewhat sullen - even though he was always the handsome one.  But at family weddings or what have you - everyone without being conscious of it - knew Tommy or Thank or Tom was the happy one.

But sometimes good news - happens - healings start to happen. Hey, aren’t we all people of hope? Who wants to hear a story with a unhappy ending? So here’s the good news that began to happen.

Terrence accidently overheard someone describing him and his brother as “Think” and “Thank” - and he knew immediately who was who. 

The more he thought about that - the more he realized his twin brother was his gift to him. 

So they would go out to dinner from time to time - actually at least once a month. 

They were now in their early fifties. 

Think slowly began to become more and more like Thank. 

And so he would thank his brother Tom for being such a great twin brother and a great gift to him. 

Ooops, in fact, both would stop to find the waiter and waitress - after a long meal together - and say together, “Thank you!”

Quote for Today - Sunday October 13, 2013

"I thank You God
for this most amazing day;
for the leaping greenly spirits of  trees
and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural
which is infinite
which is yes."

e.e. cummings [1894-1962]