Saturday, April 5, 2014


Poem for Today - April 5, 2014


She wanted a little room for thinking:
but she saw diapers  steaming on the line,
a doll slumped behind the door.

So she lugged a chair behind the garage
to sit out the children's naps.

Sometimes there were things to watch -
the pinched armor of a vanished cricket,
a floating maple leaf. Other days
she stared until she was assured
when she closed her eyes
she'd see only her own vivid blood.

She had an hour, at best, before Liza appeared
pouting from the top of the stairs.
And just what was mother doing
out back with the field mouse? Why,

building a palace. Later
that night when Thomas rolled over and
lurched into her, she would open hers
for an hour - where
she was nothing,
pure nothing, in the middle of the day.

                                                                                              ©  Rita Dove



The  title  of  my homily is, “Obnoxious.”

That’s the English translation of the Greek word in Wisdom 2:12 – today’s first reading.  This text is not in the Hebrew Bible.

The New English Bible translates it this way: “he stands in our way.”

I read today’s text – Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22 a few times and what I hear is that someone is being obnoxious – standing in the way – blocking movement – stopping progress – being a problem.

We know the feeling. We call such a person a pain – or a PITA – or a drain.

And the reaction is to want  that person to disappear, to  get rid of the person.

This happens in life and therefore in the scriptures all the time.

Here in the Book of Wisdom and in today’s gospel from John, I assume those who chose the readings – are moving us towards the end of Lent – bringing us to Holy Week – Good Friday – getting us to see motives why they wanted Jesus is killed on the cross.


I assume there are 2 kinds of people who are obnoxious: those who are prophetic – those who challenge us – when we are in the wrong, when we are selfish or what have you; and those who are obnoxious in the negative sense.

We know those who are obnoxious in the negative sense: those who park horribly, those who bark at us, those who burp – those who dress terribly or those who are always messing up our plans.

What about those who are obnoxious because they speak the truth.  They might not   say it in the right way – but they speak the truth – and sometimes even though it will set us free – the other speaks with sandpaper and rub us the wrong way.

A question: has anyone ever challenged us  - and we got angry or frustrated with them – but down deep they were right – or in time we found out they were right. We still wanted to kill them.

That’s Jesus at times. That’s the prophet in the Old Testament at times. That’s what today’s text from Wisdom is getting at.

So in life – maybe it was a teacher or a parent or a friend – who told us we were hanging out with the wrong crowd – or dating the wrong person – or going in the wrong direction – not studying – not working – wasting our time or what have you.

Thank God for them. If they are still alive – maybe give them a call – and say, “Thank you!” If they are dead, thank them in prayer.

Then there are the pains – who drain us.

How do we deal with them?  I have a whole book on all this, How To Deal With Difficult  People.  It sold about 60,000 copies, but let me tell you, I still don’t know how to deal with difficult people.


The literature on dysfunctional people tells us that 1% of the people in our daily circles sometimes take 99% of our energy.

I was talking to some high school principals last night and one of them said exactly that: one person can take up 90 percent of one’s time. Ugh.

We’ve all heard about high maintenance people.

There are the letter writers – the complainers – the nudges – the needy – the drainers.


As Christians I think  Jesus had some of this in mind when he came up with his stuff on turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, as a way of changing – and perhaps challenging another person. Instead they get rejected – avoided – most of the time.

It’s been my experience – and I know I’ve said this a dozen times – the odd person gets avoided – because he is odd – and he becomes odder – and is then rejected even more – and on and on and on. I learned that from living with odd priests.

A lady just said to me recently, “You have no idea what it’s like to live with a man.”

And I said, “Hello! I live with 10 other men – and all my life as a Redemptorist  I’ve lived with a great cast of characters – and they lived and had to put up with me.

I’ve often wondered: obnoxious people have to come to Mass. Are there any here this morning? As soon as I say that I hear myself taking the voice of Jesus when he announced someone was about  to betray him: “Is it I, Lord” – as just said it at the Last supper.


I know the old saying, “Timing is everything.” 

Most of the time – when it comes to obnoxious people – we don’t say anything to the person who drives us crazy – but we spend a lot of energy complaining about the person.

So sometimes the best resource is to simply hide – run – avoid – to recover one’s energy. But sometimes the right thing is to challenge each other – with love in the background, Amen. Amen. 

Friday, April 4, 2014


Poem for Today - April 4, 2014


Stammer is no handicap.
It is a mode of speech.

Stammer is the silence that falls
between the word and its meaning,
just as lameness is the
silence that falls between
the word and the deed.

Did stammer precede language
or succeed it?
It is only a dialect or a
language itself? These questions
make the linguists stammer.

When a whole people stammer,
stammer becomes their mothertongue:
as it is with us now.

God too must have stammered
when He created Man.
That is why all the words of man

carry different meanings.
That is why everything he utters

from his prayers to his commands
like poetry.

(c) K. Satchidanandan
Translated from the
Malayalam by the author

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Poem for Today - April 3, 2014


for Ric de Ungria

Last night I dreamt of a knife
I had bought for my son. Of rare dagger
with fancily rounded pommel, and a wooden sheath
which miraculously revealed other, miniature blades.

Oh how pleased he would be upon my return

from this journey, I thought. What rapture
will surely adorn his ten-year princeling's face
when he draws the gift for the first time. What quivering
pleasure will most certainly be unleashed.

When I awoke, there was no return, no journey,

no gift, and no son beside me. Where do I search
for this knife then, and when do I begin to draw
happiness from reality? And why do I bleed so 
from such sharp points of dreams.

Alfred A.Yuson
from Dream of Knives
 and Mothers Like Elephants 
Selected Poems and New 
(Anvil Publishing)
 Copyright (c) 1986, 
by Alfred A. Yuson

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Today’s readings help us to understand what  Redemption – Salvation – Being Saved  - Being with God – Being in Christ - sounds and feels like.

This is a very easy homily. I am simply going to repeat today’s 2 Readings and the Psalm in light of my question: “What Does Redemption Sound and Look Like?”

Today’s first reading from Isaiah 49 gives great images to help us get our hands and our minds on what Redemption sounds and looks like.

It’s like feeling one is a prisoner and one hears the words, “Come out!”

It’s like feeling one is in the dark, and one hears the voice, “Show yourself. You no longer need to hide in the dark.”

It’s like feeling you’re a hungry sheep and the Lord will lead you to pastures.

It’s like feeling thirsty and the Lord leads you to wonderful  springs of water.

It’s like being out on the road in windy weather or scorching heat and the Lord  gives you protection from both.

It’s like having to climb a mountain to get to the other side and the Lord cuts a road straight through the mountain for you.

It’s like being on a bumpy or pothole road and the Lord makes the highway smooth as possible.

It’s like feeling all alone and people come from all over to be with you.

It’s like feeling down and out and you start to sing and feel like you have an in.

It’s like being uncomfortable and the Lord comforts you.

It’s like feeling you’re a motherless child and you hear the Lord said, “I won’t forget you – even if a mother forgets you – I won’t forget you.

Today’s Psalm 145 continues telling us what Redemption is like.

If you think the Lord is angry with you,  you got it wrong:
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.

If you think the Lord has disappeared, let me tell you:
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.

If you think the Lord is unjust remember:
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.

Today’s gospel from John 5 also tells us what Redemption looks like.

Jesus and his Father are forever working in our behalf.

If you want to know how the Father sees and thinks, see how the Son sees and thinks. The Son shows us what the Father is like and he does the works of his Father – in fact the Father will do even greater works than the Son.

If you’re worried about death,  realize that the Son raises the dead and gives them life.

If you’re worried about judgment, realize that the Father doesn’t judge, He leaves that to the Son. So study the scriptures and the stories about Jesus – and then you’ll know he doesn’t throw rocks – he won't refuse you even in the last hour – rather he'll welcome you home like a lost sheep, found coin, or lost son.

And if you miss your dead – and worry about what happened to them, be at peace, because Jesus is in graveyards, amongst the tombstones, calling the dead into Risen Life.



Poem for Today - April 2, 2014


What we have been becomes

The country where we are.
Spring goes, summer comes,
And in the heat, as one year
Or a thousand years before,
The fields and woods prepare
The burden of their seed
Out of times's wound, the old
Richness of the fall. Their deed
Is renewal. In the household
Of the woods the past
Is always healing in the light,
The high shiftings of the air.
It stands upon its yield

And thrives. Nothing is lost.
What yields, though in despair,

Opens and rises in the night.
Love binds us to this term

With its yes that is crying
In our marrow to confirm
Life that only lives by dying.
Lovers live by the moon

Whose dark and light are one,
Changing without rest.

The root struts from the seed
In the earth's dark - harvest
And feast at the edge of sleep.
Darkened, we are carried
Out of need, deep
In the country we have married.

Wendell Berry, 
Collected Poems,
page 168-169

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


[Since both readings for today  – the 4th  Tuesday of Lent -  talk about water – the first reading from Ezekiel 47 – which pictures rich images of a temple where water is everywhere - and then in the gospel of John 5 - where we have the Healing Pool of Siloam story – my homily this morning will simply be a poetic prayer which I wrote last night thanking God for  water.]

Creator of all gifts bright and beautiful,
we praise you for this first day of  April  – this Spring Day – we praise you this day for water, water, water everywhere.

Creator of all gifts bright and beautiful,
when I look up into the night sky – I see stars and planets – dead, dead, dead - because they have no water on them that we know of – as of now.

Creator of all gifts bright and beautiful,
when I look at our earth, our planet – especially here on the edge of the Bay – which leads out to the ocean – we see nature – grass which will get greener and greener with each Spring rain. We’ll see flowers that are about to sprout and shout to us – in a whole cascade of colors – better than all the colors in those big box of crayons – flowers ready to Spring – ready to show us how creative You are with the fabrics of flowers -  wave after wave of so many varieties of flowers.

Creator of all gifts bright and beautiful,
we are amazed at water – its forms and flow – its twists and turns – rivers, mist, spray, waves, dew drops on spider webs and Eucharistic Bread, creeks, waterfalls, rain, water that boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, 100 degrees Centigrade, water that freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 degrees Centigrade – water bubbling when hot – floating when cold – amazing water, water, everywhere.

Creator of all gifts bright and beautiful,
we are aware of the water which is  in our blood, in our drinks, water that is over 70 percent of our earth and then there is so much more under our soil – millions and millions and millions  of gallons of water  – water under our deserts – water in aquifers and trees and clouds. Water – water – water everywhere.

Creator of all gifts bright and beautiful,
we enjoy watching little brothers loving puddles – especially when they can splash little sisters – wearing big rubber booths – but then again, kids sometimes hating baths – but loving pools and Ocean City and water slides – and water balloons - and water guns – water, water, water, everywhere and in everything.

So God,
Creator of all gifts bright and beautiful,
is it any wonder why we have such a sense of wonder about water? Some scientists tell us that we have the same amount of water we started with from the beginning.  We sense your presence, your parenting power, your creative presence, when we wonder about water.  May we use it well. May we always be amazed at it. May we always protect it. Remind us to be living water, refreshing cool water on a hot day, warm shower water on a cold day, the gift of a cold drink of water to each other each day. Amen.


Poem for April 1, 2014


Dying for water,
Hagar went racing
back and forth in the valley
but forgot to look
in the obvious places first

What she needed most
was right there all along,
under the heel of her foot
All it took was a nudge
from an angel's wing

Little self, panting the world,

take a hint.
Lift your heel,

look! - find your own
long-buried Zamzam spring.

(c) Mohja Kahf
page 84,
Language for
a New Century,
Contemporary Poetry
fomr the Middle East,
Asia, and Beyond

Hagar Text: Read
Genesis 21: 1-21

Monday, March 31, 2014


Poem for Today - March 31, 2014


The dead are always looking down on us, they say,
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass-bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves through eternity.

They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a warm afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,

which makes them lifts their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.

(c) Billy Collins

Sunday, March 30, 2014



The title of my homily for this 4th Sunday in Lent, Year A,  is, “Sight:  Hindsight, Foresight, Insight.”

That’s the title and the thought that hit me when I read today’s gospel story from the Gospel of John – chapter 9: 1 - 41.


Let’s start with sight.

The man born blind in chapter 9 of the gospel of John can’t see. His physical eyes – the ones we can see – those 2 round eyes – above his nose -  don’t work.

That’s the first meaning of sight and blindness in this story in the Gospel of John.

But as we know,  John’s images and stories have many levels and many meanings.

Bread is bread – but it’s also Eucharist – the body of Christ.

Water is water – but it’s also Living Water that satisfies the deepest spiritual thirsts of every human being that meets Christ.

Birth is birth – but it also refers to rebirths – a person starting again - in the middle or some point or points in our life.

Light is light – the sun – the light from a candle or a lamp – but it’s also the Inner Light and Christ as the Light of the World.

Night is night – darkness – but it can also be the night of sin and darkness a person can get lost in. Reread today's second reading where Ephesians like the Gospel of John talks about being in darkness. [Ephesians 5:8-14] 

So sight is sight – but here in the Gospel of John -  it becomes inner sight – seeing more and more of God in our life – seeing that Christ is the Son of Man – seeing that Christ is the Light of the world as we heard in today's gospel - the One who takes away the sin and darkness of our world.


The second theme I want to get into is hindsight.

As they often say, “Hindsight is 20-20.”

We know a lot more the next day. I love the saying, “Don’t write in your diary what happened that day, because you won’t know till next week or next year or twenty five years from now what really happened."

Hindsight is Monday morning quarterbacking. It’s the play, the move, the coach should have called yesterday. It’s the trade that looks smart or the trade that looks stupid – three years later.

A key idea would be that we learn from what has happened.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest – how good is my hindsight?

What have I learned from the past? Especially mistakes? What do I perceive happened – if it was a dumb move – so I won’t do it again?

It’s my understanding that we are déjà vu people. We make the same mistakes 70 times 7 times.

It’s my understanding that people who are hurt by another are more interested in the other stopping the same old stupidity or mistakes than hearing the same old, same old, “I’m sorry!”

Don’t tell me you’re sorry, do something about your blindness.

Hindsight challenges us to look at what has happened in our life – learned its lessons – so that we might stop repeating our past.

Re-runs are often not that much fun.


On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how good am I with foresight?

Some people are better than others in figuring out the future.

There are some scouts who can see possibilities in an athlete that others don’t see.

Everyone thinks they have foresight. We're heading towards the toll booths just before the upcoming bridge. Which booth to take? Which one will not have a delay  – if one doesn't have E-Z Pass? Or someone is at the track: which horse to pick? Or picking a restaurant: which one? Will it be crowded? Or when making the big, big choice: which person to marry? 

Here is where experience comes into the picture. Here is where hindsight – once again - comes in. What have I learned – not just to kick myself for stepping in your know what – but to have the foresight to keep looking down when I’m walking.

In today’s first reading [1 Samuel 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a] the Prophet Samuel goes to see a man named Jesse and his sons. The Lord had said to him, “Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”

Samuel goes to see Jesse and his sons and says, “Surely the Lord’s anointed  is here before me.”

He hears the Lord say, “Don’t judge by appearance or from lofty stature .... Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”

Jesse presents all 7 sons to Samuel.

The Lord chooses none of these 7 sons.

But wait a minute, the Lord had told him that the future king is in one of these sons of Jesse? So Samuel asks Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him.”

Well, when Samuel sees the youngest he knows: “This is the one.”

Samuel anoints him.  I love the final words from today’s first reading, “... the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.”


Insight is the last of the sights I’m mentioning today.

On a scale of  1 to 10. 10 being the highest how good am I with insight?

Insight is like foresight from hindsight. However, an insight is more clear and more specific than foresight.

Let me give two insight stories – both of which I have used in my life – forever and a day. I have no idea where I heard these 2 stories for the first time.

The first story is called, “We’ll See.”  If you start to say along with me the refrain, “We’ll See” – you’re getting the story.

A man had one son and one horse and one farm.

The horse was the best horse in the whole countryside.  Whenever the son raced with him, it won. Whenever people saw how powerful the horse was in pulling a plow or stumps out of the ground, the people would say to the man, “Wow, you’re so lucky to have such a wonderful horse.” And he would always answer, “We’ll see.”

Well, one day his horse ran away – and neighbors seeing the man and his only son would say, “Wow, you’re unlucky. That’s a horrible thing that your horse ran away.” And the man said, “We’ll see.”

Well, surprise two days later their horse returned – with 20 other horses. And everyone came out to see the 21 horses. It was quite a scene to see. And everyone said, “How lucky you are that your prize horse returned - along with 20 other horses. Wow!”  And the man said, “We’ll see.”

Well, his son got on one of the new horses – and was thrown. He broke his leg. So neighbors said to the man. “Wow, you’re unlucky that your only son broke his leg.” And the man said, “We’ll see.”

Two days later an army marched through that countryside and grabbed every available young man. They drafted them into the army and marched off to battles. Well the neighbors came to the man who had the prized horse and only son and said, “How lucky you are that you’re the only one left with a son.”  And the man said, “We’ll see.”

The second story is called, “Raking Leaves.”

A man is raking leaves on his lawn – outside his house – just on the edge of town.

Another man comes up the road. He has a backpack on. Seeing the man raking leaves, he goes up to him and asks, “Mister, I’m from a town down the road – about 100 miles from here - and I’m looking for a new town to settle in. What’s this town like?”

Well, the man raking leaves asks the man with the backpack, “What was it like in the town you just left?”

The man with the backpack said, “It was horrible. That’s why I left it. Everyone was so self centered and selfish. You couldn’t trust anyone. You couldn’t leave your door open.”

The man raking leaves said, “Well, I suppose you’ll find the same sort of folks in this town.”

And the man with the backpack said, “Thank you. Thank you. Good thing I asked. So long. I’ll keep looking.”

About an hour later, the man was still raking those leaves and another man comes up the road – also with a back pack.

He asks the man raking the leaves. “What’s it like in this town? I’m looking for a new place to settle.”

The man raking the leaves asks, “What was it like in the last place you were?”

“Well,” said the traveler, “I’m from a town about 100 miles from here and it was a wonderful place. I lost my job – so I had to move. It’s a shame, because it was such a wonderful place. Everyone talked to everyone. You never had to lock your door. It was the perfect place to live.”

“Well,” the man raking leaves said, “I’m sure you’ll find the same kind of people in this town -  with that same kind of spirit.”

And the man with the backpack said, “Thanks. I think I’ll settle here.”


The title of my homily was: “Sight:  Hindsight, Foresight, Insight.”

A church is a vision center. Meeting Christ can be an eye opener. It's good to come to this place.

Hopefully we say each time we experience Christ. “Oh, okay, now I get it, now I see.”

Better, hopefully each time we experience Christ, we say, “Oh, okay, now I see, now I get you.”

Poem for Today - March 30, 2014


It is believed that the onion originally came from India.  In Egypt it was an object of worship - why I haven't been able to find out. From Egypt the onion entered Greece and on to Italy, thence into all of Europe.

When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.

And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall

for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on the texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,

(c) Naomi Shihab Nye (1952- )