Saturday, April 19, 2014


Poem for Today - Holy Saturday - April 19, 2014


After you board the train, you sit and wait,

to begin your first real journey alone.
You read to avoid the window's awkwardness,

knowing he's anxious to catch your eye,
loitering out in never-ending rain,
to wave, a bit shy, another final goodbye;
you are afraid of having to wave too soon.
And for the moment you think it's the train

next to you has begun, but it is yours,
and your face, pressed to the windowpane,
is distorted and numbed by the icy glass,
pinning your eyes upon your father,
as he cranes to defy your disappearing train.
Both of you waving, eternally to each other.

(c) Greg Delanty, Southward



The title of my homily is, “The Cross! Redundant.”

I was surprised when that word “redundant” showed up in my brain. The word, “Cross” no. It’s Good Friday. But redundant? Where did that come from?

I checked the dictionary – to check out - just what “redundant” means.

Yes “redundant” fits and works. It can mean abundant, excess, or repetition. Checking carefully, in wanting to get to - what I want to get to - this evening, the word “reduplication” might be more exact or even the word “redux” – never used that word – it means “brought back” – yet, still again, I want to stick with the word that hit me in the first place: “redundant”.


The title of my homily – with the word “redundant” came to me last night.

I was sitting over there [Point down to the benches on my left] – at last night’s Holy Thursday Liturgy here at St. John Neumann. I looked straight ahead and saw that gigantic empty cross. [Point to the right at the cross.]  It’s been up there for the whole of Lent. The cross – the sign of the cross – it was pressed into our foreheads with ashes as we began Lent. This cross I was looking at had a big purple stole on it till Palm Sunday – then out came the red stole – just this last Sunday
Next, I spotted the regular big, big crucifix that fills the wall of our sanctuary. [Point] It stayed as is – all Lent  - all year long – for years now.

Then I said to myself, “Why two crosses?”

Answer: I assume it’s sort of in the books to have for Lent a big empty cross like the one you see here in the sanctuary.

But why not put the big purple cloth, the stole up on this one – and then a  red one when it comes to Palm Sunday – and skip this other cross?

Then – it was then – that I thought to myself, “It’s redundant!”  That’s when that word showed up.
Then I said to myself, “We’re going to have a third cross in this Good Friday service – the one that Deacon David will lead down the main aisle – after the Good Friday prayers or Intercessions – after this homily. That third cross we’ll all venerate tonight with a kiss or a touch of our hand.

Three crosses. Now that’s redundant.


Then the obvious hit me.

The cross…. Of course, the cross is redundant.

It’s the Christian symbol – our marker.

If you’ve ever driven on Route 404 – off Route 50 East – after the Bay Bridge - on the way to Ocean City – you’ve seen lots of crosses – marking a spot where someone was killed in a traffic accident.

If you’ve ever walked into the cemeteries on both sides of West Street – after Taylor Circle – you’ve seen lots of crosses.

If you watch athletes, you’ve seen them make the sign of the cross before and after a play – but especially if someone is hurt.

If you watch people come into church, you see them making the sign of the cross.

Because today is Good Friday – because today I made two sick calls – I also realized the cross is everywhere and in and on everyone.

I saw two people today in their homes walking with aluminum walkers. So sometimes the cross is made of aluminum – in the shape of a walker or a cane or a crutch or even a new leg with those new metals.

The cross is made of cancer and psoriasis. The cross is made of broken marriages and broken people. 

The cross is made of drugs and drink and eating problems.

Talk about redundant ….

Is it any wonder why the Cross became the Christian symbol?

The Jewish people have the Star of David. The Muslim people have the star and the crescent moon. The Christian people could have chosen light – Jesus did say that he was the light of the world. The Christian people could have chosen bread or water or a door or a Good Shepherd – all ways Jesus talked about himself.

However, in time the Cross became our main symbol – surely because suffering is often part of our lives – as we travel down the roads of life. Pain…. Suffering …. The Cross…. They are redundant.  The cross keeps happening.

Christians at those times look to – hold onto – the cross – because they believe, they know, that Jesus is with us when we are on our cross – or carrying our cross – or when we fall because of the weight of the cross – three times or a seventy times seven times.


Good Friday is the day this is reflected upon - preached about – thought about - to remind us – to help us realize Christ is central to our lives 365 days a year – year after year after year.


Let me move towards my conclusion this way.

I don’t know music – especially classical music – but I spotted the following in last week’s copy of The Tablet – a Catholic Magazine out of England that Father Joe Krastel and I like to read.

In an interesting article, entitled, “Out Of The Flames” – by Rick Jones I read the following:  Yesterday and today in London, England, Good Friday, April 18, 2014, the BBC singers and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra are going to perform St. John’s Passion – that’s the one we heard and played out tonight. The one in England takes about an hour in song and music.

What would it be like to be there today – rather than to be here?

Now what I found fascinating was the following.

This particular performance of a St. John Passion was by Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach – the son of the famous Johan Sebastian Bach.

The conductor of this performance is Kirill Karabits – a Ukrainian conductor.

He said he discovered this piece in the Kiev State Archive in 1999 – when he was a student. But it’s taken him 15 years to finally present it in music. He adds if this piece he discovered was by Carl Philip Emanuel Bach’s father, it would have been history – and made headlines around the world – and certainly played much sooner.

Kirill Karabits, today’s conductor, says that Bach’s son was known in his day as being one of the best composers in Germany – but always overshadowed by his father – Johan Sebastian Bach.

Kirill Karabits, today’s conductor, then told the writer of the article, that there was in Berlin an entire library of music founded in the 1790’s by a pupil of Bach’s son. When Berlin was being bombed – the whole library was boxed and sent to Silesia for safety.

The train carrying the boxes was bombed. While burning,  Russian soldiers rescued the boxes and took the entire archive containing 5000 items to Russia. That’s how they got into the Kiev State Archives.

The article writer asked Kirill Karabits to compare the son’s Passions – there are 21 of them – with his father’s.

His answer grabbed me. He said, “I think it is not the case of comparing the two composers’ Passions.” He said they lived in different times, different cities, and composed each passion for different reasons.

Eureka! In the gospels we have 4 Passion Accounts: Mathew, Mark, Luke and the one we heard tonight – John’s

Each was put together for a different community.

Down through the centuries there have been millions of retellings of the story of Jesus’ passion and death – in churches, in music, in plays – till our day.

Tonight, each Good Friday, each time we ponder the story of Jesus’ death on the cross – it enters into our story – and into our way of hearing, and praying, and reunderstanding Jesus’ story.

In doing this we make that story redundant and abundant in our life. Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Poem for Today - Good Friday - April 18, 2014


That was the day they killed the Son of God
On a squat hill-top by Jerusalem.
Zion was bare, her children from their maze
Sucked by the demon curiosity
Clean through the gates. The very halt and blind
Had somehow got themselves up the hill.

After the ceremonial preparation,
The scourging, nailing, nailing against the wood,
Erection of the main-trees with their burden,
While from the hill rose an orchestral wailing,
They were there at last, high up in the soft spring day.
We watched the writhings, heard the moanings, saw
The three heads turning on their separate axles
Like broken wheels left spinning. Round his head
Was loosely bound a crown of plaited thorn
That hurt at random, stinging temple and brow
As the pain swung into its envious circle.
In front the wreath was gathered in a knot
That as he gazed looked like the last stump left

Of a dead-wounded deer's great antlers. Some
Who came to stare grew silent as they looked,
Indignant or sorry. But the hardened old
And the hard-hearted young, although at odds
From the first morning, cursed him with one curse,
Having prayed for a Rabbi or an armed Messiah
And found the Son of God. What use to them
Was a God or a Son of God? Of what avail
For purposes such as theirs?  Beside the cross-foot
Alone, four women stood and did not move
All day. The sun revolved, the shadow wheeled,
The evening fell. His head lay on his breast,
But in his breast, they watched his heart move on
By itself alone, accomplishing its journey.
Their taunts grew louder, sharpened by the                          knowledge
That he was walking in the park of death,
Far from their rage.  Yet all grew stale at last, 
Spite, curiosity, envy, hate itself.
They waited only for death and death was slow

And came so quietly they scarce could mark it.
They were angry then with death and death's deceit.

I was a stranger, could not read these people
Or this outlandish deity. Did a God
Indeed in dying cross my life that day
By chance, he on his road and I on mine?

(c) Edwin Muir

Thursday, April 17, 2014



The title of my reflection for this Holy Thursday morning is, “The Mass, The Eucharist: What Are Your Questions?”

On Holy Thursday we look at, we consider, we ponder, the great mystery of the Mass, the Last Supper, the Passover. We think about when Jesus celebrated a Sacred Meal with his disciples on the night before he died. We’ll do that in this parish at the one Mass we celebrate this day: our Holy Thursday celebration – tonight at St. John Neumann Church at 7:30. 

We'll be celebrating the Passover and the Exodus which moves into the Christian Passover and the Christian Exodus.

Last night, I was wondering about what to preach on this morning. I’ve spoken at this 8 AM Holy Thursday Service – every year for the past 10 years or so.

Pause. Silence.

Finally, a question hit me. I’ve been going to Mass and communion for some 67 years now. After all those Masses and communions, I have to have some questions about the Mass. What are they? If I had to come up with one question, what would it be?

The key questions that hit me were: When and why did Jesus come up with this idea of using bread and wine – and saying, “This is my Body…. This is my Blood…. Take and Eat….. Take and drink…. and Do this in memory of me”?

Why bread, why wine, why these words? Why these actions? Why this ceremony, ritual, sacred meal?

Why? Why? Why?

For starters, I realized I really don’t know when he came up with this idea.

For starters, I realized I can come up with some reflections to the why?

First the when…. Did the idea hit him during some Passover meal celebration with Mary and Joseph while growing up in Nazareth?

The Passover Meal was celebrated every year at this time to remember and to recall that this was a way of thanking God for making us a people – for calling us out of slavery – so a nobody can become a somebody - redeeming us from the Pharaoh – as Moses lead us through the waters of the Reed Sea – into the desert – and to head for the Promised Land. In a rush, with blood on their doorposts - at that meal, we Jews took bread, took wine, and ate the Pascal Lamb – to recall that moment of freedom from long ago – but this time eating more slowly.

I’m sure Jesus asked at that meal what every youngest son asked at that meal, “Why is this night different from every other night?” And Joseph told his son about Moses – with all the words in the scriptures about this very night.

When did Jesus come up with this idea of the Mass? The Eucharist? The Lord’s Supper? We know from our readings tonight – and during this Holy Week -  that the Passover meal surely had something to do with it.

Or did the thought hit him in everyday daydreaming – from everyday scenes? Seeing farmers planting wheat seeds…?  Seeing vineyard workers picking grapes …? Seeing a father breaking bread and breaking off a piece of that and handing it to his child…? Seeing a mom giving her child a sip of her wine…?

Or did he cry when he saw people hungry and starving for daily bread? Did he cry when he saw religious worship and rituals being done by rote and simply being lip service?

Those might be the when’s – indefinite when’s at that.

The why is more significant. The why is more my question more than any question. Why did Jesus choose bread and wine? Why did he choose the Passover Meal? Why did Jesus tell us to do this in memory of me? Why did Christians following Jesus celebrate this meal, this Mass, over and over and over again?

Was it because Jesus saw people who were  physically hungry – for bread, for wine, for anything?

Was it because Jesus saw people who were spiritually hungry?

We know both. We’ve experienced both.

Was it because bread, wine, to become bread and wine, that they have to go through a long process of dying – wheat being crushed to become flour – grapes being crushed to become wine. And then the long wait – life is a lot of waiting. And Jesus knew he was about to crushed – broken – killed.

Was it because a loaf of bread – is one loaf – but when broken – can become many pieces – can enter many stomachs – uniting a whole community of people – different people – but becoming one by means of a meal? So too wine. So too the Pascal lamb.

And we’ve experienced many meals – Thanksgiving, Sunday dinners, anniversary meals, a great dinner out with friends – a cookout – when laughter and joy was the sound all around.

Was it because a table and an altar – where a sacred meal takes place – where a meeting can take place – where a family meal or meeting can take place – can give us a sense of being centered – connected. It’s nice to have a place at the table. Some people feel they don’t. Some times some people like the idea of upstairs – downstairs – and they want to in the up and put down others.

Was it because a meal is a great time to share words and food, bread and wine and food?

Was it because a meal is a good time to share not just bread and wine, but words – words about our life together and life apart. The family that eats together stays together. The family that does not talk with each other – and is unaware that they don’t eat together – will not stay together.

The family that does not make sacrifices for each other won’t stay together.

The family that does not pray together won’t stay together.

The family that does not see their common story – common heritage – common connection – are not in communion with each other.

The family, the people, who are not really present to each other, while they eat and afterwards – are not getting what Jesus was about: being really present – not just in tabernacles, not just in bread and wine, but in the Body of Christ, member with member as Paul was to tell us – and each part of this body – is important. We all need each other: those who are handy, those with a lot of heart, those who see what is needed, those who have an ear for what is happening, and those who do the footwork.

Was it because a meal is all about service – serving and being served – and we all need to get that – from the shopping and arranging the meal – going to the next village to prepare for everything – to the washing of feet – to the seating each other – to the breaking of the bread – sharing the cup – listening to each other – and never betraying each other.

Why? Why? Why?

When? When? When?

Today – this Holy Thursday – we ponder these questions once again.

The title of my reflection is: “The Mass, The Eucharist: What Are Your Questions?”

What are your questions?


Poem for April 17, 2014 - Holy Thursday


Jesu!  Only-begotten Son and Lamb

          of God the Father,
Thou didst give the wine-blood of Thy body 
          to buy me from the grave.
My Christ! my Christ! my shield, my encircler,
Each day, each night, each light, each dark;
       My Christ! my Christ!! my shield, my encircler,
       Each day, each night, each light, each dark.

Be near me, in my standing, in my watching,

           in my sleeping.

Jesu, Son of Mary! my helper, my encircler,

Jesus Son of David! my strength everlasting;
       Jesu, Son of Mary! my helper, my encircler,
       Jesu, Son of David! my strength everlasting.

Prayer poem, page 168, 
in The Celtic Vision,
Prayers and Blessings
from the Outer Hebrides
edited by Esther de Waal

Wednesday, April 16, 2014



The title of my homily for this Wednesday in Holy Week is, “Portraits: Self and Otherwise.”

In this past year I have learned several new words. For example, “Selfie” and “Bestie”.

I asked a bride last Saturday what a “bestie” is. It was a word she used in an answer to some questions I ask couples – in order to help make my homily more personal. She looked at me – as if I was really dumb – and said nonchalantly “Your best friend – of course.” And she shrugged her shoulders. That’s how she had described her husband to be – “My bestie”.

I actually thought she wrote, “My beastie” – and I didn’t know what that meant either. I figured it was a nick name.

The title of my homily is, “Portraits: Self and Otherwise.”

Looking at my life, how would I like to be portrayed?

Am I a bestie or a beastie?

Am I the best selfie I can be?


I’ve always heard that the first person we look at in a group photo of any sorts – if we’re in the picture - is ourselves.

Is that true?

I don’t know.

I know that people when they see themselves in a photograph, they immediately make a judgment: “Not bad …. Horrible …. Good.”

Now that I know what a “selfie” is, I’ve seen lots of people taking them. Then they swing their phone – which took the picture – to see themselves in the picture. Many then delete or erase that picture and try again – and again – and again.

Do you have a decent picture of yourself?

Is there a picture of yourself that is horrible? Passport or driver’s license or what have you?

So that’s been my experience – that’s how I’ve noticed people - when  dealing with pictures of themselves.


When it comes to paintings of people – I’ve met very few people who have had a portrait of themselves made. Their children yes.

I noticed a portrait painting last year in some house I was saying Mass in. The lady in the painting looked sad. I said to the lady, “That’s you.”

She said, “And I know. I look sad.”

I said nothing.

Then she added, “My husband I were going through a tough period in our lives at the time.”

I thought. That’s a good painter – someone who caught a mood.

As to being a good portrait painter – I wondered. As in taking photographs, maybe they too should say, “Smile!”


I thought of this topic when I read today’s readings.

The first reading from Isaiah 50: 4-9 has Isaiah talking about his head. He centers in on his tongue, then his ears, then his cheeks and then his beard. He mentions his back as well.

I began thinking: A sculptor or a painter would love Isaiah’s face and skull to picture and sculpt. He says in today’s text that he sets his face like flint. Solid. Face forwards. With courage. With strength. An artist could do that.

Then I began - in light of thinking about Isaiah - what would it be like to paint or picture Jesus at the Last Supper?  What a great contrast could be made with his face and the face of Judas.

Next I have to look more carefully at paintings of the Last Supper by Rembrandt and Da Vinci. I don’t know if Caravaggio did any – but I hope so – because he used light and shadow so well.

Also I don’t know off hand any paintings of Isaiah. I’ll have to type in the Google search box: “Paintings of Isaiah” – and see what comes up.


Since the title of my homily is, “Portraits: Self and Otherwise” – I assume a good thing to do is to look at pictures of myself and ask, “What was going on with me at this moment?” What was I feeling?”

To paraphrase Pope Francis from his homily last Sunday: “I can be either Judas or Jesus. Be Jesus of course?”