Saturday, March 22, 2014


Poem for Today - March 22, 2014


held together
in wholeness
by the air of the Spirit
the putty of trust
the glue of friendship
the cement of Scripture.
Serving a purpose
Beautifying the world
to the power,
and possibilities
of limitations embraced.

(c)  Imelda Cooper
Painting, "The Pitcher"
by Brad McLean

Friday, March 21, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Envy Kills.”

Envy itches the skin of our arms and our chest. 

Catch yourself when you are feeling envious. See if you scratch your arms and the back of your hands or your chest – just under your heart – or if your a lefty, on your right side.  I don’t know if that’s true,
but it’s something I wonder about. Check it out.


Envy is one of the capital sins. It’s a biggie. It means coveting. It means wanting. It means desiring – what others have and we don’t have.

Envy causes resentments – loss of skin – loss of soul – loss of energy – loss of time – loss of inner peace.

The title of my homily is, “Envy kills.”

Envy is often interchanged with the word “jealousy”. It happens so often that the argument that jealousy has to do with fear of losing what we have and envy is wanting what others have – doesn’t hold.

Yet I still like that distinction between envy and jealous.


Today’s first reading from Genesis puts the issue of envy up front and personal. [Cf. Genesis 37: 3-4, 12-13a, 17b -28a]

Parents, teachers, grandparents always tell us that they don’t have any favorites. 

Let me tell you: they are lying.

Today’s first reading begins with the flat out statement that Jacob loved Joseph best of all his sons. His dad even makes a special coat just for him – the so called “coat of many colors”.

How’s that for a topper.

Joseph was smart later on in life – but when he was a teenager – he let his brothers know he knew he was daddy’s favorite. He told his brothers his dreams and in his dreams he’s #1.

He let them know he was top dog – the Hot Dog!

No wonder they wanted to kill him.

Envy kills.

And Joseph is almost killed.

Instead he’s sold into Egypt for 20 pieces of silver.

Hint, hint, the price of living has gone up by the time Jesus rolls around – when he’s sold for 30 pieces of silver.


Today’s gospel from Matthew gets right into one of the main motives for killing Jesus. It’s envy. And Envy Kills. [Cf. Matthew 21: 33-43, 45-46.]

Jesus was drawing the crowds.

Jesus was giving insights, wisdom, “Aha Statements”.

Jesus was giving religion of the heart – inside stories, inside stuff, and the chief priests knew down deep they didn’t have it.

Killing Jesus, removing Jesus, would remove these terrible feelings of envy – eating at their insides.  If they could kill Jesus, the heir, the favorite Son, they would have the whole Vineyard for themselves.

Envy kills.


I’ve heard a few times the comment, “Envy is a priest’s disease.” 

It is. But it’s also an everybody’s disease.

The other person has better skin, is in better shape. The other person gets better recognition.  The other person has a better car and a better looking car, spouse, children.  The other person has a better wedding, funeral, front lawn. You name it and I’m envious of it, because I don’t have it.

Name your poison.

Name your desire.

Name your envy.


I had a neat experience a few Sunday’s ago.

It was the baptism of the second child – another beautiful little girl.

Well, we’re standing there after the baptism and the newly baptized baby is in her daddy’s arms – just after getting all that attention.

Her older sister – 2 years old – sees her sister in daddy’s arms and wants to be held by daddy.

I don’t know if this is what’s going on – but this was what I was seeing.

She starts whining – loudish whining – wanting to be in daddy’s arms.

He’s just looking at his youngest.  Well, the 2 year old turns and sees me and comes over and wraps her arms around me.

It was a nice moment – never having kids.

Snap. Snap. Picture. Picture.

And I picked her up into my arms to mirror her daddy with his youngest daughter in his arms.

And she turns to face her daddy with a great look.

Hey guy. Look at me. Eat your heart out.

Snap. Snap. Picture. Picture.

Was this a picture of what goes on for much of our lives?


The title of my homily is, “Envy Kills.”

What’s a woman or a man to do?

Here are 3 solutions for now – first draft thoughts. I picked 3 words beginning with A - and tomorrow I could pick B's or at least C's.

First of all: Acceptance.  It behooves us to learn how to accept our age – our realities – our lives – as is – at any given moment – especially when envy itches us – and learn to laugh at ourselves.

Secondly: Appearance. It behooves us to remember that appearances are tricky. The grass is always greener in the other person’s yard. Or as they said years ago: “The grass is always greener over the other persons septic tank.”

Thirdly: Affirm others. It behooves us to affirm others about the stuff we envy in them or about them. This is part of how virtues grow - going against its opposite - the vice. Say, “Hey you have great skin.” “I love you car!” “Now that was the best wedding I’ve been at in years.”  "That's an interesting tie." “That’s a beautiful dress. Where did you buy it? Best dress at the wedding.” 


Painting on top: Envy by Eva Hoffmann


Poem for Today - March 21, 2014


She lived life out of a wheelchair.
Barely hearing. Almost blind.
At worship today
Christ's Supper was offered to her,

but she thought the plate of broken bread
was the offering plate.
Bewildered, she said a bit too loud,

"I don't have anything to give."
Poor woman, they all thought.
Not so.
Through any disorientation, we have everything
in the Christ who gives his life for us.
Through our deafness, he hears for us.
Through our blindness, he sees for us.
Through our trembling hands, he will take

the bread and cup for us.
We hear Christ's words:
            Let not your heart be troubled.
            I will hold it.

            I will feed you.
            I will drink the cup for you.

            I will fill you.
            I will be your world.
Oh, to be so poor.

(c) Robert W. Guffey, Jr.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Poem for Today - March 20, 2014


I was a boy when I heard three red words
a thousand Frenchmen died in the streets
for: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity – I asked
why men die for words.

I was older; men with mustaches, sideburns,
lilacs, told me the high golden words are:
Mother, Home, and Heaven – other older men
with face decorations said: God, Duty, Immortality
- they sang these threes slow from deep lungs.

Years ticked off their say-so on the great clocks
of doom and damnation, soup and nuts: meteors flashed
their say-so: and out of great Russia came three
dusky syllables workmen took guns and went out to die
for: Bread, Peace, Land.

And I met a marine of the U.S.A., a leatherneck 
              with a girl on
his knee for a memory in ports circling the earth 
              and he said:
Tell me how to say three things and I’ll always 
              get by – gimme
a plate of ham and eggshow much? – and – 
              do you love me,

 ©  Carl Sandberg,
Harvest Poems,
pages 61-62

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Poem for Today - March 19, 2014


When God scooped up a handful of dust,

And spit on it, and molded the shape of man,
And blew a breath into it and told it to walk -
That was a great day.

And did God do this because He was lonely?

Did God say to Himself he must have company
And therefore He would make man to walk the earth
And set apart churches for speech and song with God?

These are questions.

They are scrawled in old caves.
They are painted in tall cathedrals.
There are men and women so lonely they believe

          God, too, is lonely.

© Carl Sandburg, 
Harvest Poems,
1910-1960, page 83

Cave painting on top 
from Widipedia, 
"In Indonesia the caves 
at Maros in Sulawesi 
are famous for 
their hand prints. 
About 1500 
negative handprints 
have also been found 
in 30 painted caves 
in the Sangkulirang 
area of Kalimantan; 
preliminary dating analysis 
puts their age 
in the range 
of 10,000 years old."

Check out the poem
on creation by James 
Weldon Johnson, 
on this blog
for February 19, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014



The title of my homily for this Second Tuesday in Lent is, “Authenticity.”

Now that’s a difficult characteristic to have.

Authentic means the real deal – genuine. What you’re see is what you get. You can trust the label. It’s not counterfeit.


Authentic comes from a Greek word, "AUTHENIKOS". We find the roots of the word used in the Gospel of John in a few places - for example when Jesus talks about true or genuine worship.[Cf. John 4:23 .]  

If we grasp the gut meaning of the English word "authentic" - if we know it means not being being two faced - then we know this is definitely a theme Jesus was off on.

We know that his prime challenge were the Pharisees. They were externalists. They were in it for the show. They spent their lives examining other people’s consciences – and avoided the within.

Jesus described them as beautiful cemeteries – nice green grass on top – with nice white tomb stones on top of that -  but underneath filled with death.

We heard that again loud and clear in today’s gospel – from Matthew.


I don’t remember ever hearing someone described as authentic in their eulogy. In fact I don’t remember ever describing someone as authentic. I might have used the word “honest” or “trustworthy” or “transparent” -  but I don’t remember using that word, “authentic” – but it bounced into my mind as I read and re-read today’s gospel.  Today’s gospel - Matthew 23: 1-12 - is near the end of his gospel - before we get to Jesus’ arrest.  We’re getting to motive for the crucifixion here.

I remember hearing in eulogies the following: “I never heard her or him saying something bad about another person.”

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear that about someone who has died, I get the thought, maybe I should go for that as well. But I don't. I must have realized how difficult that would be – so I never made that commitment in life.

Never in a eulogy, but in a conversation, I’ve heard someone describe someone else as a Phony.

I don’t remember ever describing someone that way.

But I have thought about others behind their backs – and sometimes digs come up out of my grave – describing someone as being lazy, selfish, a Type A driver when driving, doesn’t seem to listen, but keeps cutting people off.... I described people those ways at times.

Afterwards - after  pondering upon it, I realized that’s being a Pharisee myself. Ugh. Bless me Father for I have sinned.


So I better leave digs and diggings into others lives to Jesus – and stay out of people’s graves – and death – and decaying inner stuff – and deal with my own stuff – and ask Jesus to come to me as he came to Mary M that Easter Sunday morning – or come to me as he came to Lazarus’ tomb and get me out of death and into Resurrection and new life – each morning – and pray and help me to be authentic this day and each day. Amen.

Poem for Today - March 18, 2014


Is the soul solid, like iron?

Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?
Who has it, and who doesn't?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad

                  as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.

In the fall, the black bear carries leaves 
                  into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have shape? Like an iceberg?

Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake 
                  and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?

Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting 
                  alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, 
                  and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

© Mary Oliver
New and Selected Poems,
Volume One, page 65

Monday, March 17, 2014



The title of my homily for this feast of St. Patrick  is, “Irish Weather Report.”

My uncle Pat, Patrick Connolly, one of my mom’s brothers, loved to give the Irish Weather Report. I heard him tell it with a great Irish smile – a mile wide – a dozen times: “Irish weather report: Rain - Heavy at Times."

That was it.

Get enough rain – you’ll get enough green.  Get enough rain – you get enough pub time – or indoor time – time to make up stories – and time to make them better with each telling


Today’s gospel – Luke 6: 36-38 - has a great story – a great image – on how to do life. I picture Jesus telling this story – with a great smile – because it’s a key to understanding our God, our Father, in Jesus.

How to do life? Jesus tells us to do it with generosity – do it with abandon – do it givingly – do it without being cheep  – do it without measuring out our love in tea spoons. Give and forgive with scoopfulls – heavy forgiveness  and heavy giving at times.

Jesus must have spotted a very generous merchant in the marketplace. Was there a wheat and flour stand or store right next to the carpenter shop in Nazareth?  We don’t know.

But we do know that Jesus talked about a grain merchant in the marketplace. You’d buy a measure of wheat from him. He’d put the wheat in your cloak like this [Gesture Using Vestments]. Then the merchant would shake it – till it settled in tight. Then he’d put some more in and then shake it again. After that he'd fill it up with more wheat. Then he'd pat it down and then pack it again and again and again till the person walked around with an extra load of wheat in his cloak and an extra big smile on his face.

That is vintage Jesus. Go the extra mile. Give the shirt off your back and your undershirt as well. Mine is green today. Anybody want it.  Pay the workers whom you hired the last hour the same as those who worked all day. Forgive your son – even though he messed up all the inheritance you gave him just a few months ago. Reach out to your older son who doesn’t like that kind of generosity and forgiveness – but wants punishment and yelling and judging.

Invite all into the banquet – worthy and unworthy.

Forgive till it hurts. Give till you run out of wallets and wheat.


Is this an Irish Attitude?

Hopefully, but hopefully it’s an everybody’s attitude.

It’s called being a Christian.

I’ll have to read the 1995 book,  How The Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill again – to see if he has this nuance of heavy generosity in it - as a key characteristic that helps a culture be a saving culture.

I know there are jokes about Irish keeping grudges – jokes about Irish Alzheimer's - you forget everything but the grudges. So I don’t know – but I kissed the Blarney Stone – so why not dream that Irish are all very generous and very forgiving.


If you want rain, vacation in Ireland – and enjoy the rain, heavy at times. See the green grass grow greener.

I lucked out on my first trip to Ireland – to have a window seat in our airplane – to look down that morning on Ireland as we arrived at sunrise and be able to see why Ireland is called “Green!”

I was wondering if a person’s personality is shaped by one’s everyday sights – and everyday geography and surroundings.

I was wondering if a person would grow up differently, if they grew up in a house near the Salton Sea in California – where it’s desert and dry – and hot and even hotter a good bit of the year – compared to growing up in a rain forest – or in Costa Rica or Panama – or Seattle or Ireland - places that get a good bit of rain.

I was wondering if  we can  say that a child growing up in a house of cards – with funny people – that they would have a sweeter disposition  - than someone growing up in a house of grouches. I have fond memories of enjoying my mom’s three brothers who would visit us from time to time as kids: Patsy, Johnny and Cole.

I hear that I have a good smile – and I grew up hearing and seeing that my dad had a great smile. If I got that from him, thank you dad. I assume I got his funny walk – with feet pointing out from him – as well as his love of reading – seeing him reading all the time when we were kids – including poetry – as well as taking us on long walks every possible Sunday.

I keep hearing that kids seeing their parents and brothers and sisters reading books – tend to become book readers themselves.


So I hope – that good stuff begets good stuff – and heavy at times.

So my thought for today – is generosity. May your weather report be – plenty of giving – plenty of forgiving – heavy at times.

May your weather report be - laughing, smiling, enjoying, heavy at times.

May your weather report also be - story telling, making the stories better – especially if you got to kiss the Blarney Stone – heavy at times.

However, may our weather report stop being: "Snow - heavy at times."

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Painting on Top: Deborah O'Keeffe


Poem for Today - March 17, 2014


I arise to-day
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise to-day
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His Ascension,
Through the strength of His descent 
             for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise to-day
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preachings of Apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise to-day
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise to-day
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.

I summon to-day all these powers 
                between me and those evils,
       Against every cruel merciless power
that may oppose my body and my soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge 
            that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me to-day
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise to-day
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
Domini est salus. 
Domini est Salus. 
Christi est salus,
Salus tua, Domine, 
sit semper nobiscum.

Attributed to St. Patrick, [7th Century]
Known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”.

© Translations of Whitley Stokes,

John Strachan and Kuno Meyer

Sunday, March 16, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Awesome and Then Some.”

In this homily I want to talk about getting in touch with transfiguration moments in our lives – moments in our autobiography – our personal story  - that were different than other moments in our life – moments that  changed our lives – moments that shaped and reshaped our lives -  moments that were awesome and then some more.


I would think that the first step would be to make a list – a list of moments in our lives – moments that impacted us – moments that stopped us in our tracks – moments when our world stood still – moments when we wondered, “Is this really happening to me?” “Lucky me!”  “What’s next?” “What now?” Wow!” moments.

Obviously our list would include moments like births and deaths – vacations to places that knocked our socks off  - anniversaries – and then the great surprises of our life.

Someone loved us …. Someone saw something in us that we never saw …. and they expressed appreciation and love for us – and a year or two years later we married them – or what have you.

Life is the sunrises and sunsets – but life is mainly the surprises!

So that would be the first step – make the list. 

I would also suggest talking to each other about each other’s life and list. Hear one another. Listen to one another. Say “I love you” with our ears – not just with one’s mouth. Listening is a key way of loving one another. NCIS each other – that is, figuring our what happened. That would be much more important than listening and watching NCIS on TV.

Recognition – respect – remembering - are key ingredients to spiritual growth – in our’s and each other’s lives.

I’m stressing here the importance of remembering – discovering and rediscovering and recovering each other’s memories. They make us who we are.

Suggestion: a key way of doing this is questions – not badgering questions – but right time questioning – like on long car rides – like at the dinner table – especially at the end of meals – when we're sitting there laughing – and enjoying each other’s history or herstory.

Questions are the great fish hooks to get to 70% of the other person – to the stuff we can’t see – to the stuff that  is underwater. [70 % is the amount of water that covers the earth – as we see in this search for the missing Malaysian plane.]

Ask questions like: “What are the top 10 moments in our moms and our dad’s life?” If they are living, go fishing. If they are dead, talk to brothers and sisters about them. Great stuff. Those are the home movies to watch. Questions…. Questions…. Questions…. "Mom, Dad, what was it like when you first met each other?"  “Dad, mom, what was it like for you when the United States was going through the war in Vietnam?”  “What about that time you took that car ride across the United States – or what about the time you climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire?” “What was it like for you when you were a kid?” “What was grandpa’s grandpa like?”

Since our gospel reading is on the Transfiguration scene as it appears in the gospel of Matthew – these moments are often called, “Transfiguration Moments.”

What were the moves - transfers - relocations - in our life – like the story of Abraham in today’s first reading – when we made a move from there to here – not knowing all the surprises that were to come. I know there are real Anapolitans in this parish – in this area – but I also know there are people from somewhere else. How did you get here? Was this what you expected?

So what were the Transfiguration Moments in each other’s lives?

What were the mountain moments – when we saw it all – if for but a moment. Those God glimpses.... Those “A Ha” moments.... Those “Eureka” moments ....


We can also make a list of disfiguration moments – moments when  we were hurt or cut or disfigured – but be careful of those.

A baby is stillborn…. A marriage falls apart …. A family is broken – like a plate that falls on a stone floor – and slivers scatter everywhere – and we can cut ourselves picking up the pieces …. A kid of ours or a grandkid gets arrested for drugs or what have you – and the whole family is pulled apart in various directions …. A spouse dies…. We’re fired…. A friend we thought was a good friend betrays us with comments about us…. We’re cheated out of money big time…. A secret is broken.


Jesus had his moment of glory in today’s gospel on the mountain – and he was transfigured before his disciples. He heard one of life's great affirmations: "You are beloved!" Later on in our gospels we’ll hear about Jesus on another mountain – Mount Calvary where he is disfigured before all who stood beneath his cross. And hanging there on a cross Jesus felt totally abandoned by God, Our Father.  He yelled out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Lent is a good time to look at these two mountains – the mountain of transfiguration and the mountain of disfiguration.

Life is both cuts and scars, slashings and healings, ups and downs, blessings and curses....


Notice in the word “transfiguration” as well as the word “disfiguration”, the word “figure”.

A key to life is not just the experience – but what we figure out from the experience.

So that’s why I titled my homily, “Awesome and Then Some.”

The “Then Some” is the “Go Figure” time.

We have moments in our lives that are awesome – but more important is the taking some time – to slowly unwrap the learnings from our experiences.

Go figure!

I remember hearing in a talk the comment that we can have 18 years experience – or the one same experience 18 times.

The person who takes the time to “Go Figure” is the person who learns from all 18 experiences.

If a marriage falls apart, does a person learn why things went wrong – what happened?

I hear that is one good reason for the annulment process in the Catholic Church.

I hear it's a good idea to encourage people in a good marriage to make a Marriage Encounter – so as to talk with one’s spouse, “How’s it going – to escape for a weekend to “Go Figure” to make a marriage “Awesome and Then Some.”

I hear it's a good idea to encourage marriages that are in trouble to make the Retrouvaille – a program for marriages that are in trouble - so that couples take the time to “Go figure” how to make a troubled marriage a more peaceful adventure together.

I hear that’s what makes good therapy – when a person takes the time with a therapist – to go figure – where they’ve been – how they’re doing – where they are in trouble, lazy, depressed, not growing, so as to get going in new directions – with a healthier way of doing life.

Tough stuff. Great stuff. Life stuff.


My conclusion is this: write down your story. That’s a great way of pulling the messages our of the messes and the blessings – we experience in life.

Somewhere along the line I figured out that the primary scriptures we ought to be reading is the story of our own lives.

As you know the scriptures are the written stuff that was spoken for the longest time. 

Then someone wrote down the story – and re-wrote it – and re-wrote it again – making the story make more sense with each telling and each re-write.

Take the story of Jesus. He suffered and died and we believe rose from the dead around the year 33 or so.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’s gospel stories are from after the year 55 – at least. They gathered the stories about Jesus – and wrote them out in ink.

I see all these folks texting and typing into all kinds of gadgets.

In this homily I’m suggesting text yourself. Make your lists. Write your autobiography. Find quite places – inner rooms, mountains, deserts – to disappear to – and from that vantage point – have mountain top experiences like Peter, James and John had in today’s gospel. See Jesus in the pages and stories of your life – in your joyful, sorrowful, glorious and light bearing mysteries – and hear yourself saying to yourself and to Jesus in prayer: “Lord it is good for me to be here. Thank you!”


Poem for Today - March 16, 2014


As if God were an old man

always upstairs, sitting about
in sleeveless undershirt, asleep,
arms folded, stomach rumbling,
his breath from open mouth
strident, presaging death ...

No, God's in the wilderness next door
- that huge tundra room, 
         no walls and a sky roof -
busy at the loom. Among the berry bushes,
rain or shine, that loud clacking and whirring,
irregular but continuous;
God is absorbed in work, and hears
the spacious hum of bees, not the din,
and hears far-off
our screams. Perhaps
he listens for prayers in that wild solitude.
And hurries on with the weaving:
till it's done, the great garment woven,
our voices, clear under the familiar

         blocked-out clamor of the task,
can't stop their
                           terrible beseeching God
imagines it sifting through, at last, to music
in the astounded quietness, the loom idle,
the weaver is at rest.

(c) Denise Levertov