Saturday, December 21, 2013


December 21, 2013 - Quote for Today - Saturday

"A human being fashions his consequences as surely as he fashions his goods or dwelling. Nothing that he says, thinks or does is without consequences."

Norman Cousins [1915-1990]


Should every house have at the front or garage door a sign or a boomerang with the simple message, "Remember there are consequences."


This will help you reflect on consequences.
Once more listen to Harry Chapin's song: Cat's in the Cradle!

Friday, December 20, 2013



The title of my homily for this 3rd Friday in Advent, December 20th, is, “Prayer: Rote or Real.”

My original title was simply “Annunciations” - because both readings contain annunciation moments.  [Cf. Isaiah 7:10-14; Luke 1:26-38]

Then I thought, to be practical, it would be better to bring that theme into prayer, because folks are often asking for ways to pray better.


The first reading from Isaiah 7 can be dated to around the second half of the 700’s before Christ - 742 heading towards 700.

The Gospel would be at the beginning of AD - the beginning of all these new years with the Lord Jesus.

Back then - either 2700 or 2000 years ago -  if someone had a radio receiver or a TV set or a cell phone or what have you, and they turned it on, there would be no sounds in the air to pick up.

Obviously, that’s a fantasy.

All we would hear back then would be the wind or the birds of the air or the music of those singing at work in a carpenter shop or in the temple or on pilgrimage - as well as the sounds of the words of people within one’s hearing.

If a tree fell in a forest, we would hear it.

If we did the same today - if we listened with a powerful radio receiver - AM - FM - Short Wave - we would hear static as well as a snowden - a blizzard of sounds - and voices and music.  The air waves today are filled with the sound of music and thousands and thousands and thousands of people talking on the phone to each other.

A question that hit me - thinking about that contrast: was it easier to be a better listener back then that it would be today?

Answer: I don’t know.

Assumption: Definitely easier back then.


The title of my homily is “Annunciations.”

Prayer is all about Annunciations and Responding to what those announcements and pronouncements are about.

One great way to respond is simply: ask questions.

Prayer - once we hit 10 - or 12 - or 14 - but I’m really not sure of what age it would be  - should be not just rote memory comments - any more than our communication with each other - should be more than rote.

Yes we say the Our Father and “How are you?” and “Nice day,” and “Yes dear” and “It’s warmer today!” by rote - often without thinking - but communication better be listening, reflecting, and asking questions to and with each other.

The question mark is in the shape it’s in - for a reason - to hook each other - to catch each other - to hopefully end up - being in communion with each other - to become pregnant - bigger than ourselves - compared to just going it alone.


Prayer to be real - is to look for signs - of possible solutions - new life - new ways to being with God and with each other. 

Prayer is communication.

Communication to be real - is to look for signs - for the visible.

Ahaz in today’s first reading is asked to ask the Lord for a sign, but he won’t do that.

How many times in our life has someone said to us when we were moaning or groaning or complaining about someone else, “Well did you ask them?” “Did you talk to them about this?”

If I read the scriptures correctly - especially the psalms - prayer is very much talking, yelling, begging, groaning, asking God questions.


Ahaz won’t ask God.

Mary does.

That’s why I love the Annunciation story of Mary here in the Gospel of Luke.  And luckily we hear this gospel read at least 3 times a year.

Mary models how to be in communion with God. Ask questions. Tremble. Be troubled. It’s all right to be afraid.  Yet she asks.

So Mary mirrors good communication - actually thinking and talking  to God.

Too many prayers are babble…. non-thinking babble…. Too many prayers are rote memory recitals.

If you know the gospels, especially Luke, you’ll know this is one of Jesus’ complaints about prayer.

I am challenged by the statement: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.


Almost finished, one last example. Have you ever had the following experience? You’re visiting a museum or a famous place and you have a tour guide or a docent. They are explaining a painting or a ceiling or something and someone asks a question out of the blue.

The docent or guide answers the question. Then the panic appears on their face. They have given this tour so many times - or something like that - and they don’t know where they let off to take time to answer the question from the crowd. Or they are brand new and just have their speech memorized, so  they have to start their whole spiel from the very beginning.

We have to become so familiar with God - and being in conversations, arguments, discussions with him - like with a friend, that it doesn’t make any difference where we let off or what have you.


Prayer moments can be like the two annunciation moments we heard in today’s 2 readings. Simply listen - ask - wonder - speak up - worry - tell God you’re afraid of something that’s going on in your life or what have you. And in the meanwhile expect distractions and interruptions - noise or someone opening up the door and asking a question. So what. Then we go back to prayer


December 19, 2013 - Friday - Quote for Today

"What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone."

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

Bertolt Brecht [ ]

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Quote for Today - December 19, 2013 - Thursday

"I'd be astounded if this planet is still going by fifty years from now. I don't think we will reach 2000. It would be miraculous."

Alistair Cooke [1908-2004]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Quote for Today - December 18, 2013 - Wednesday

"If you love, you will suffer, and if you do not love, you do not know the meaning of a Christian life."

Agatha Christie [1891-1976], An Autobiography,[1977], Pt. III, Growing Up

Tuesday, December 17, 2013



The title of my homily for  this Tuesday in the Third Week of Advent - December 17th, is, “The Family Tree.”


As we listened to the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew this morning - which begins with names - lots of names - 42 to be precise - we are getting a sense of history - and mystery - not just of Jesus Christ - but of every person.


Our parish theme for this year is: Every Person Matters.

On the family tree of each person there are names - 42 names - hundreds and hundreds of names. They are the people who got us to this moment of our life.

I have not talked yet to someone who was adopted - who had no idea who his or her parents were - and then they took one of those new DNA tests and they discovered with the results - some of their roots. What would that be like?  I have to keep my ears open for someone who took that path.

What is it like when an adopted person discovers who gave them the gift of life? When it comes to adoption, I’m sure we’ve heard great stories - as well as so so stories. I’m sure we heard of people expressing a greater appreciation of the woman who gifted another couple with her child - because she or they knew they couldn’t handle a child at this time. I’m sure we’ve heard as well a greater appreciation for the mom and dad who adopted a person.

In the last 50 or so years doing one’s genealogy has become more and more significant - and I’ve heard people tell stories that are fascinating.

Growing up we had a picture of a cousin of my mom or dad - who went out to Minnesota - in the early part of the last century -  never to be heard from again. Then years later my Aunt Nora found a note on her door in Galway, Ireland  - from some people on a golfing trip to Ireland and they were checking out their roots. Nora wasn’t home - but they left a USA  address. My aunt Nora sent the address to my sister in Brooklyn - who wrote to them saying, “We might be relatives.” We were. Then my sister Mary flew out to a family reunion they were having - now in South Dakota. It was great. They were super, super happy to get the lowdown on their family tree - much of which they didn’t know about.


Okay, I asked myself, what would be 3 messages - I don’t know why I picked 3 - but 3 things that can happen from doing a genealogy:

1) We are a Cast of Characters. Check the family tree - and you’ll find a great cast of  characters and surprises. We’ll come up with people we’d brag about and people we’d like to keep in the closet. Looking at Matthew’s list for Jesus in today’s gospel, commentators like to point out the 5 women mentioned and not mentioned: Tamar seduced her father-in-law, Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth who was loyal beyond blood but most loyal to her in-laws, Bathsheba whom Matthew doesn’t list by name. She’s described as the mother of Solomon and the wife of Uriah - the one who got pregnant by David and whom David let him get killed. Then there was Mary - the mother of Jesus who is called the Christ.

2) Being a Loner Is Not an Option. We’re not in this alone. We can’t get a ticket to the dance called “life” without a mom and dad - and their moms and dads - and their moms and dads - and back and back and back and back and back. We’re not just one domino. John Donne said it loud and clear: “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent.”  I love the football story - that happened somewhere along the line. A quarterback was doing fabulous on some college team - but he never gave credit to his offensive line - who protected him every time. So on one play - it was planned -  they just fell down and let the defense of the other team come in and crush the quarterback. He got the message!

3) We’re All Related - if we all go back far enough. Is this why various folks like to say to another. Hi Bro or Sis or Cous. As we listen to history and social studies and world situations, we keep hearing that various parts of the world - especially the countries ending in “an” - but many other places - Africa - the Middle East - are very family and tribal oriented - and those places are really not part of a nation yet. Blood is thicker than water. Families - extended families are more to be trusted. It isn’t until we realize we’re all brothers and sisters and God is our Father, and we’re in this together - that this world isn’t going to work. I’ve often thought the only way this world will be united - would be that we discover there is another world on some other planet  - and they are perceived to be enemy - and dangerous. 

Quote for Today - December 17, 2013

"I would say that music is the easiest means in which to express ... but since words are my talent, I must try to express clumsily in words what the pure music would have done better."

William Faulkner [1897-1962]

Monday, December 16, 2013



The title of my homily for this Monday in the 3rd Week of Advent  is, “By What Authority?”

It’s a question that appears in today’s gospel: Matthew 21:23-27. 

In Advent these readings don’t flow from one day to the next, so it would be important to know what has just happened right before today’s gospel - to trigger the question. Jesus just went into the temple in Jerusalem and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

Next - as we heard in today’s gospel - the priests and the elders seeing Jesus doing this asked, the obvious, “By what authority are you doing these things?”

What I wonder about is why this reading is picked for Advent.

After that it got me thinking about the question of authority.

A few questions for you are: Is the question of authority something you think about from time to time? Are you interested in hearing a few words about authority right now? You’re sort of stuck - because I’m at the microphone - but you can tune a speaker out - if you’re somewhere else. Don’t we all do that from time to time?

My task as priest is to come into this temple and at this time after the readings to say a few words on the readings - that is, to preach a homily.

That’s a long introduction - but I hope it gives the reason why I am about to preach a homily entitled, “By What Authority?”


To me that’s a scary question.

It’s also a good question at times.

I can’t just come up here to the pulpit and say anything. I have to be responsible. I can’t just overturn tables

So by what authority do I say what I say?

At present, in our Catholic Church the basic rule and regulation is this: ordinarily, the person up here preaching should be a deacon or a priest. Behind that would be education and testing, etc. and then ordination. Moreover, the priest and deacon have to give a promise of fidelity to Church teachings.

So I am responsible for what I say and I have to consider what I am saying.

That doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes.

There are jokes about a preacher being allowed to make 5 heresies in every homily.

I’ve even heard that from bishops. Now that’s an argument from authority.

I like that joke or comment - because what we say up here has to be kosher and well thought out. And I feel at times I don’t have enough time to look at every implication in what I am saying.

Moreover, I am well aware that I have lots of questions about lots of things in the scriptures - and in theology.  I am called to keep studying, growing, learning, and developing. That is part of the vocation of a rabbi, a deacon and a priest. If I have it right, it entails being a life time student.

I am also aware that it is valuable to have various personalities preaching - and teaching - and speaking from the pulpit - so that you too are helped in growing with the Sacred Scriptures. I assume that would be part of the background of those who want to hear the voice of women from the pulpit as well.

I am also aware that you as listener - also have an obligation to receive the word according to your personality - and your education - and your development and growth and your faith.

I like to say to people: “Please be thinking Catholics - thinking Christians.”

And folks are thinking. I’ve hit wrong buttons at times. I’ve hit confusing buttons at times. And at times people let me know.

So I know from experience that people sit in church listening to a homily and consciously and unconsciously inwardly think and say to themselves the very same question we heard in today’s gospel, “By what authority are you saying these things?”

I also know people are inwardly saying at times, “I don’t agree with you!” Or “I doubt that.” Or, “I have think about that.”  Or “I have to read up about that.” Or “I want to ask for a second opinion.”

So as I said: this is scary stuff.


I am fond of a saying of St. Thomas Aquinas - when he said that authority is the weakest of arguments.

Those who like St. Thomas Aquinas like to say: “Notice that in itself that is an argument from authority.”

Authorities on St. Thomas Aquinas like to add that St. Thomas’ full statement was: “Authority is the weakest of arguments according to Boethius.” 

Boethius was a 6th Century AD public official and philosopher who wrote a document entitled, “Consolation of Philosophy” - which had a great impact into the Middle Ages.

As I studied St. Thomas Aquinas on the authority question,  I hear him saying that sometimes arguments from authority are good - but often there are better arguments. For example he said that in his various arguments for the proof of God’s existence.

Don’t we do the same thing? A kid starts to play with matches or wants to touch the stove or go out with so and so.  A parent might yell with authority: “No! Don’t go there!”  Later on the kid will know - not from authority - but from experience - my mom and dad were right. “It’s not smart to play with fire.”


As you know the big issue when it comes to the Bible is how do you interpret it?

By whose authority do you say what you say about a particular passage of the Bible?

This used to be a big Catholic-Protestant flash point.

Times have changed. Now it’s often a Fundamentalist vs. Various Literary Forms “fight”. Better labels could be found or used - but I only have so much time. This is not a lecture, but I am using my time in working on this homily - to pull together some of my understandings and where I want to further go and grow.

As you well know,  we preachers not only preach on the Bible - but reach for other books on our shelves when it comes to studying a Bible text - and to come up with a homily. So I reach for several commentaries on the Bible as well as dictionaries of the Bible - as well as books of sermons and reflections by people like Barbara Brown Taylor,  William Barclay, Paul Tillich, John Shea, Helmut Thielicke, Frederick Buechner, Austin Farrer, Joseph Donders, Denis McBride, to name just a few.

For me, the question is no longer Catholic-Protestant reflections on the Bible - but the reflection of this particular person I’m reading on a Biblical text.

As a Catholic - I rely on our on Tradition and Theology - Catechisms and Church Documents - the Fathers of the Church - and lots of theology books by people like Karl Rahner and Bernard Haring and so many others. They are rooted in the Bible and our Tradition and our History. So I am rooted in the Bible - post-college 4 years of theology and Biblical Studies  in the seminary - plus studies for two more master’s degrees in theology that I got after I was ordained and years after our seminary training years.


Now, let me take today’s first reading from the Book of Numbers [24:2-7, 15, 17a] and make a few comments. It  gives some utterances from Balaam - a character in the Bible. He is a seer - that is one who sees what others don’t see. A seer is one who has visions and makes pronouncements from God about them.

I assume Baalam is mentioned in today’s first Advent reading  because one of his pronouncements was about the Star of Jacob.

We can ask,  “By what authority Balaam are you making your pronouncements?”

We can also ask how true is his story - and his comments?

Here is where I go to authorities - so called, “Biblical Scholars.”

That’s an area of the authority - big time authority - these so called, “Biblical Scholars”.  They have to do a lot of study in various fields to get their doctorates.

In his Biblical Dictionary, John L. McKenzie notes the following about Balaam with a comment by an authority named, William Albright, “Albright has argued from the language and the grammatical and syntactical characteristics of the poems that they are as ancient as the 12th or the 11th century, the period to which Balaam belongs in tradition. The same writer has shown that the ‘Star of Jacob’ [Numbers 24:17] should actually be translated, ‘When the stars of Jacob prevail.”

Reading that I assume that the section of Numbers we heard today at this Mass has traditions and strains and stories that go way, way back.  I was taught that those traditions came down in spoken form first - so they would change and become reformed in each situation to help people in each situation to be better people or follow such and such a religious practice or what have you.

Take the example, when it comes to Balaam, of his famous talking ass. It’s mentioned right there in the Book of Numbers - Chapter 22 - two chapters before today’s first reading. 

Now I don’t believe in talking donkeys - but I know that also is one of those pulpit jokes - about preachers - from time to time.

I also assume that the story was preserved because it’s funny, memorable, and could be used by a speaker or a preacher in cute ways.

Did the donkey talk? Did the snake talk in Genesis?

I was trained in Scripture in a Catholic seminary - so I got what was the current teaching between 1962-1966. I have also read a lot since.

Catholic teaching on the Bible has changed in the past 200 years - and its official pronouncements right now are that that the Bible contains lots of various types of literature. Fundamentalist Biblical thinkers think otherwise - so right there a thinking Catholic might have a dilemma - and a question: “Whom can I believe?”

So I was taught that we have in the Bible lots of different types of literature. And in lots of literature, for example, Aesop’s Fables, animals talk and the fables teach a people lots of good stuff. 

Another type of literature is exact science literature. We hope a doctor, an engineer, a physicist, any science reader - will get the best information - to make the best decisions for his field.  If the facts in a science book are proved to be untrue, improve the text - till we get the facts as correct as possible. Obviously.

If you read the Bible you are often reading it in light of the science at the time it was spoken and written. If you look up in the sky any bright day, it looks like the sun is moving across the sky. In the Bible it’s described as doing just that - like a chariot. When Galileo said we are the one going around the sun, the Catholic Church and many others knew he was wrong.

Surprise - sunrises and sunsets can be deceiving…. if one is self centered - that everything revolves around our world.

Appearances can be tricky. I was once at a window seat in a restaurant in Algiers - right on the Mississippi River on the other side of New Orleans. At one point in our meal, I thought our table was moving. A gigantic tanker went right by our window. Appearances can be deceiving.

Experience - checking things out - good science - discovery - testing - are all important when it comes to understanding our realities. There was a rift between Church and Life - when the Church didn’t advance with the Enlightenment. I remember my first assignment as a priest. An older priest said what was laughed at when we studied the Bible. He said the world was 6000 years old - that was what he was taught. I said that they have stones that are 4 to 6 billion years old.  He said: “Well God made them old.”

At that I became quiet - realizing - we in two different worlds.


I didn’t know it then, but I learned that day - that not everyone sees how I see. And slowly I realized there are many issues in life - and there are lots of authorities out there - and who’s right and who’s wrong - is it really worth arguing many things. Time will tell some things - and eternity may tell the rest of the story. Amen.



I didn't give this sermon as it appears here. It needed a lot of work and so I worked on it - and made it twice as long - in the present draft - and I'll do some more work on it - when I have more time. It's an important topic and I'd like to be clearer.

Quote for Today - Monday - December 16, 2013

"Whatever you may be sure of, be sure of this - that you are dreadfully like other people."

James Russell Lowell [1819-1891]

Two questions:

Why did James Russell use the word "dreadfully"?

Ask each other: how am I like you?

Sunday, December 15, 2013



The title of my homily is, “What Are You Waiting For?”

In a way, I think that question sums up all three readings for this Sunday - this third Sunday of Advent.

I’m also wondering if that’s one of those depth questions in every human being?

What am I waiting for? What am I looking for? What am I hoping for? What do I want?

Put that on hold - while I make a few observations about today’s readings. Then I’ll try to  tackle that depth - heart - question - the bottom line hope of every person.  What am I waiting for? What am I looking for?


All three readings talk about the hope for the earth to flower and flourish. We hear that in the first reading from Isaiah, then the second reading from James - and there is also a one sentence question in the gospel - about this human hope for the earth to bloom.

Do gardeners and farmers have a better chance to get and grow God in their lives than others - in their hopes to see flowers growing - tomatoes and cucumbers  filling their gardens - as well as soybeans, wheat and corn to thrive in farmer’s fields?

Isaiah begins today’s first reading with the message: “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe with rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.”

I’ve only seen three desert areas in my life: in Arizona - near Tucson, in California, neat the Salton Sea - and in Israel - down near the Dead Sea.  I’ve also seen a few places in film where the desert was blooming because of big time irrigation systems.

So Isaiah talks about the desert and the parched earth blooming with lots of flowers. So James says that the farmer learns patience because farmers have to wait for the early and late rains. And Jesus when talking to the crowds about their fascination with John the Baptist, asks them, “What did you go out to the desert to see?”

Besides wanting to see plant life flourish - the 3 readings also get at our desire to see signs of God’s presence - God’s existence - God’s concern for us - in creation - and in each other.

That’s why folks flocked to John the Baptist.

That’s why people follow Jesus Christ to this date.


What are our down deep human desires? What are we on fire for at times?

It can be for another. Shakespeare and poets often describe young love just that way. It can be a cauldron of hot lava - splashing and spilling - all over the brim. Ah young love!

Hopefully, if we are older, it’s for less messy love  - but for deeper - more subtle and solid love - in our marriages - in our families - in our lives.

The pope has recently asked for answers about marriage and family life in a big long - complicated questionnaire - that was sent out to our world. Great idea - but - I have several buts. I took a few hours to answer it - and my main complaint was: good idea - but who the heck came up with the questions - and the way they were worded. I began assuming that the main benefit would be for the person answering the questions - and going through the process - whether anyone really answers their questions or not.

As I was answering it - I realized that on the local level - a better way of looking at marriage and family would be to have every couple and every family go through some kind of an evaluation process on the question: “How are we doing?”

When I am part of our high school Kairos retreats - we just finished our 24th one - 4 days up in Malvern, Pennsylvania - once more I realized in listening to high school seniors - that families don’t eat together and talk together enough. Easier said than done - in our day and age - with so many events going on.

As in prayer - as in so many things - a major solution - after evaluation - a key answer is: taking and making time for what is really important.  Then when we get together - to really be present to each other - whether it’s eating, playing cards, or whatever.

So the first answer to the question: “What Are You Looking For?” or “What do I really want?” it has to be relationships.

People are more important than stuff.  We can stuff ourselves with stuff - especially the latest stuff - but people are always more important than stuff.

People are more important than sports. In fact, sports, even if Navy loses in football to Army  20 years from now, it’s always more fun enjoying a game with each other.

With Christmas coming - we know gifts are important - but we know what the kids don’t know they know - it’s the hand behind the gift that really counts.

So the first answer to the question to the question: What am I waiting for or looking for - it’s people.

My favorite example for this happened to me in a small town on the Ohio River. We had just finished preaching a parish mission in Pomeroy, Ohio. It was Thursday evening. A guy was telling me about a girl who went to a community college across the river in West Virginia. She was getting horrible marks. In fact she was failing and a student advisor called her in and asked her, “What did you here to college for?”

And the young lady gave a great answer. I said, “Wow!” And I grabbed my ball point pen and wrote on a Styrofoam cup these words, “I came here to be went with and I ain’t been went with yet.”

There it is. That’s what makes the world go round.

Jesus knew this big time - in his efforts to challenge people to love one another as they love themselves - to notice the unnoticed - to stop along the road - to help those who were stuck. To visit the sick. To feed the hungry.

But he also realized that this should, this could, lead us to get to know the one who makes the world go round - to make the universe - keep working - our Father - who is in heaven.

He was aware - you have to see the visible - before you start to catch the invisible - like a glint of light reflecting off a Christmas tree ornament.

Of course, it takes years - lots of looking back -lots of reflections -  lots of homework - to see God - behind everything - like the hand and heart behind a Christmas gift.

I often say to myself when I go by a jewelry store as well as every Saturday afternoon when I do a wedding - and we come to the ring ceremony - just after the vows: “There’s a world of difference between a wedding ring in a jewelry store window  - and the wedding rings going on ring fingers at a wedding - and those rings 37 years later."

Catch the invisible - the love that picks the engagement and wedding ring - the love behind the shopping and the supper - the love and concern behind the message to a teenager: “Give me a call if you’re stuck and you’re going to be late!” - the visit to the nursing home - the reason behind our troops being in some distant front or back station - the holding of hands of a family at the Our Father during Mass - and on and on and on.


It wasn’t till his thirties that Augustine discovered God - and a bit later when he confessed to God, “Too late I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within me, and I out of myself, and there I searched for you.”

The title of my homily was:  “What Are You Waiting For?”

What am I waiting for? What am I looking for? What do I want?


[I wasn’t sure what to preach on this morning - so I read the readings for this 3rd Sunday in Advent. I noticed the idea of seeing - seeing - was showing  up in all kinds of ways - seeing the desert bloom with flowers - a farmer seeing his fields  filled with crops as well as waiting for the rains -  seeing what John the Baptist and all that Jesus was doing - like the blind seeing - and I came up with the idea of seeing for this homily - so last night I wrote this story entitled, “His First Pair of Glasses.”]

He was 13 years old when he got his first pair of glasses.

His 2 older sisters both had perfect 20 - 20 eyesight - and never needed glasses.

It was his 8th grade teacher who spotted him squintingShe wondered if that was the reason why he wasn’t getting straight A’s.  He seemed to be such a bright kid. What’s more this very teacher had both his sisters when they were in the 8th grade and they were certainly big time A students.

So at the next Parents-Teachers meeting she asked Jack’s mom and dad - if they ever had Jack’s eyes tested.

“No,” they said, “but why do you ask?”

“Well,” the teacher said, “because he looks like he’s always squinting to see what he’s reading.”

“We never noticed that,” his dad said, “but we’ll have him checked.”

Sure enough Jack had really poor eyesight.

As a result Jack got his first pair of glasses.  He didn’t want contacts. He wanted glasses - real glasses. He figured they would look real cool,

They were black - distinguished black - smart looking black framed  glasses - and Jack loved them.

But better, much better, Jack began seeing all that he was missing at home and at school and in sports.

He put his wrist watch back on - because before that he couldn’t really see the numbers - so he had to ask others, “What time is it?”

He didn’t have a cell phone - and he didn’t know most kids used cell phones to tell time.

In basketball  he became a starter - averaging 11 points a game.  “Up till now,” he told one of his buddies, “I was scared to shoot - if I got into a game - because I really couldn’t see the basket.”

In school his marks improved almost immediately.

But those were obvious changes in a person who goes from horrible eyesight to 20 - 20 eyesight.

He now began noticing how his mom always touched his dad’s neck whenever she went by him at the dinner table. It was a love touch. “Nice” he thought.

He saw his mom also place her hand on his older sister Jessica’s shoulder - a sophomore in high school - when she was doing her homework or crossword puzzles. She was the only teenager he knew - who loved doing crossword puzzles.

He noticed his dad would always get up and give his oldest sister, Janet,  a hug whenever she came home. He didn’t do that to his other sister. Janet was a senior in high school and would be going off to college next September. Maybe this special hug was a hint that he would really be missing her next fall - after she leaves home - or was it because she his always his favorite?

He noticed one of his teachers completely ignored two kids in his class - who were special needs kids. As a result he found himself going over to eat lunch with them every day.

He noticed that one of the kids in his class seemed to have a hearing problem - but nobody said anything. So he told the kid, “You should ask your mom and dad to have your ears checked - to see if you need something to help you hear better.”

Then when he thought the kid was hesitating, Jack said, “See these glasses. I had really terrible eyes - and couldn’t see too well. Well,  our teacher suggested to my parents that I have my eyes checked. Sure enough, my eyes were bad, and now I see all kinds of things I never saw before.”

At church he noticed that the cross had the body of Jesus on it - while a cross in the school hall - where they sometimes had Mass - didn’t have a statue of  Jesus’ dead body on it. Why? He wondered why?

So he asked.

He found out that there was a crucifix in the hall with a Jesus statue on it. It fell one day - and Jesus broke into at least 2 dozen pieces.  So they decided to go with just a plane wooden cross - one without a body statue of the dying Jesus on it.

He learned: “Ask questions. Sometimes there are people who know answers.”

He looked up the word “eyeglasses” on Google on his computer and found out that they have a long history. In Egypt -  in the 5th Century B.C. - that is, Before Christ - anthropologists and archaeologists - he looked up the difference between these two too - found evidence that folks used glass to magnify things.

Hey, it wasn’t till modern times that people had poor eyesight - so different folks down through the ages - fooled around with glass  and jewelry and even water - to see better - like the Chinese coming up with a type of sunglasses in the 12th century - and Eskimos coming up with a type of snow goggles. He wondered about why people have different types of eyes.  He read that the first so called “eyeglasses” were said to have been invented in 1286. He read that Ben Franklin invented bifocals - maybe.

He found himself at age of 13 being very grateful for whoever invented eyeglasses - and wondered what he might invent or do with his life - when he got older - anthropologist, archaeologist, ophthalmologist, basketball pro. The whole world was ahead of him - to discover and to invent.

In quiet moments - he found himself - wishing he could thank those who invented and made all the things he took for granted till he got his eyeglasses - but most of those people were long dead.

Then it hit him - he could thank his parents - for all that they give him - and for his teacher who suggested that he might need eyeglasses - and that he did. Then he hit him that God who made it all - could be thanked every night for every day and every morning for every new day. Then it hit him , “If you can’t say ‘Thank you’ to those around us whom we can see - how can you thank God whom we cannot see?’”

Then one day in church he heard one of the readings saying that same thing in another way, “If you cannot love your brothers and sisters whom you can see - how can you say you love God whom you cannot see?”

At that he closed his eyes, took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and thanked God for everything. Then he put his totally black framed glasses back on - they were his first pair of glasses - and opened up his eyes to the whole world all around him - with a great smile on his face.


Quote for Today - Sunday - December 15 2013

"My grandfather always said that living life is like licking honey off  a thorn."

Louis Adamic