Saturday, May 3, 2014


Poem for Today - May 3, 2014


I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,
And did he stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantulus
is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair,
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune

To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:

To make a poet black, and bid him sing.

(c) Countee Cullen

Friday, May 2, 2014


Poem for Today - May 2, 2014


Years and scars later

I finally learn
all angels travel
under assumed names.

(c) George Garrett

Cf. Genesis 32: 23-33

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Poem for May 1, 2014


I look at you in helpless silence, incapable of doing a thing for you. In the middle of the white-washed walls of the hospital ward you lie, groaning quietly in the dark abyss of pain.  Only a miracle can bring you some relief. I have nothing to offer, but a prayer.  All my prayers reach the Almighty, an attempt I shall make.  I am trying to shake off His unbearable silence.  Desolation and numbness in your eyes drive me crazy and as I leave the ward quietly, I hear the footsteps of death. I want to cut off my ears to block their sound.  But will that delay the advent of death?  From your voicelessness before death, I move toward your silence after death – and I do not even want to feel angry or shed tears at my helplessness.

Suresh Parshottamdas Dalal.
Translated from the Gujarati
 by Bhadra Patel-Vadgama.
 © 1996, by the Poetry Translation
 Center Workshop I found this
on  page 505  in Language 
For a New Century,
 Contemporary Poetry from
 the Middle East, Asia And Beyond,
editor Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal
and Ravi Shannkar.

Painting on top: Hospital Ward 
by Edvard Munch.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Poem for Today - April 30, 2014

U 20000

He forgives the crows of the countryside’s roosters, forgives dusk as they sing. He forgives the stone grinders and B.C.’s casting technology.

He forgives the dry pen, the stubborn donkey. He forgives the female teacher in middle school, forgives the dumb woman for locking him in a dark classroom.

But he won’t forgive the human folly, even though he forgives the sealed walls, the crowded streets, the flies, even the person with goose bumps in a warm room.

He forgives the surrendering army, the judges who drink milk, his files, memos, decisions, but he won’t forgive slogans, documents, books, and the typos in instructions.

He forgives his children and wife for their betrayal; his weeping has never seen any words. Only today did he realize he had every reason to smash the radio.

But he didn’t. He forgives belief in electricity, belief in water. How sad the shiny river!  But he won’t forgive the unbelieving sky. Where is he going? Whom will he meet?

He forgives his cancer, his miserable funeral. He forgives the way he’d forgive rotten food. But he won’t forgive the paper money they offered.

Twenty years after he died, we acknowledge him as a person.

© Xi Chuan, excerpt
from “Misfortune”.
Translated from the Chinese

by Wang Ping and Alex Lemon

Tuesday, April 29, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Rebirths, New Editions, Starting Again,  Etc. Etc. Etc,”

Today’s gospel continues with the story of Nicodemus, Nick at  Night He’s  the one Jesus tells he needs to born again. And like most of the main characters in the Gospel of John – he takes Jesus literally. So that’s why he says, “What? Go back into my mother’s womb and start all over again?”

Jesus calls all to rebirths, new editions, starting again and again and again.

So every year the church has Lent – leading to baptismal renewals at Easter. So folks read,  make retreats – attend conferences and workshops – hoping for growth – insights - change – reconversions – new beginnings and fresh starts.

Parish Missions and Renewals are a crucial piece of our story as Redemptorists.

I’ve often heard that’s the story of many marriages. They have their ups and downs. They have their falling asleep on the job called marriage – and please God people both don’t fall out of love at the same time. And it’s the making up – the waking up -  that are significant moments in the stories of many a marriage.

Life is ups and downs, peaks and valleys. To flat line is to be pronounced dead.

Take a moment to feel and take your pulse today. Where are you?

It takes Nicodemus time – but in time he becomes a follower of Jesus Christ.


Today is the feast of St. Catherine of Sienna.

Reading short takes on her life last night, I was amazed to read at the bottom – that she was only 33 when she died.

Talk about retakes. She had many lives – hiding out in her room as a teen ager – then traveling – then getting involved in both church and state issues big time. They have over 400 of her letters to kings and poor unknowns. She challenged church to wake up and get on mission. She challenged priests to divest from the pursuit of money. She told popes to step down when there were 3 at the same time – as well as get back to Rome from Avignon – a great place to visit. At times folks wanted to assassinate her.

Talk about remakes. Rome declared her and St. Teresa of Avila doctors of the church in 1970. There were 30 males in that hall of fame – better wake up to women writers in our church.


To look at our life?

It’s Easter time…. It’s Spring time…. The bursting new life flowering around us is like those reminders  that it’s time to renew a magazine or this or that.

I’m hearing that Pope Francis has gone through some big retakes.

I just read last night about a Benedictine Sebastian More. He said a big significant moment in his life was when he said to God, “You’re boring!”

Then the realization  - that I’ve been boring in how I’ve been doing life myself.

So it’s time for a shape up, a wake up, a rebirth, a new springtime in my life – like how about starting today. Amen.


Image on top: Chinese symbols of rebirth.


Poem for Today - April 29, 2014

E  00183

Confucius said: “At thirty, a man stands.”

At thirty, the doctor diagnosed his infertility. His clan                 will vanish. He shattered china, burnt books,               wailed himself to sleep.

Confucius said: “At forty, a man is no longer puzzled.”

At forty, he trembled at the sound of singing, guilt                     made him give up his golden Buddha. 
              He moved out of his mansion, turned over                   a new leaf. A weak man wants nothing 
              but peace.

Confucius said: “At fifty, a man knows the mandate 
              of heaven.”

Porridge stains all over his fifty-year-old wife, 
              he brings her vegetables and a small 
              sea bass after school. Late blooming love 
              is like the rusty oil in a wok.

Confucius said: “At sixty, a man’s ears are an                           obedient organ for Truth.”

He lost his hearing at sixty: a loud world was reduced               to expressions.

Confucius said: “At seventy, a man does as he                           pleases without crossing the line.”

Confucius died at seventy-three, an immortal age.

© Xi  Chuan,
Excerpt from “Misfortune”.
Translated from the Chinese 
by Wang Ping and Alex Lemon

Statue of Confucius,
Shanghai China.

Monday, April 28, 2014



The title of my homily is, “The Wind! A Touch of the Spirit.”


Today’s gospel has one of my favorite sayings, “The wind blows where it wills.”  I like to say that when someone sort of doubts or wonders about how life, church, realities are going.

“The wind blows where it wills.”

That’s the translation – the mantra – that blew into my mind a long time ago. It’s the translation I like- maybe in the earlier Confraternity of Christian Doctrine translation of the New Testament. I noticed that’s the way the New English Bible translates the Greek text of John 3:8

The New American Bible translation – the one we use in our liturgy has, “The wind blows where it pleases.”

Listen to the whole context again from today’s gospel reading: “The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

That’s John 3: 8. Jesus is saying all this to Nicodemus who comes to him at night. Nick is a man who knows there is more – and he has heard and he senses in Jesus – “Here is the one who can bring me the More – the More called ‘God’”.


I have always liked and been moved by that  statement of Jesus, “The wind blows where it wills – or pleases – or chooses.”  The Anchor Bible puts it this way, “The wind blows about at will….”  Those words have for me, a touch of the Spirit.

Did Jesus hear those words or did Jesus feel those words?  In other words, did he come up with them on his own – feeling the wind on his face one day – or was he in the synagogue or the marketplace and he heard someone say that?

How many people down through the years have felt the tug, the pull, the presence of the Spirit – the Spirit of God – when they experience the pull of the wind – or a storm – or a breeze?

The poet is us, the person needing, searching for spirituality, searching for God in us, sees leaves shaking in the sunlight, or branches waving or trees swaying and dancing in the distance – and God thoughts hit us.

We say, “The branches are moving – but wind – air – is invisible.”

How many people have come to an awareness of God because of the wind?

The wind: it has a mind of its own.

The wind: it does what it wills.

The wind: it’s out of our control.

The sailor knows this.

The farmer knows this.

The person walking down the street in the rain and it’s windy and they have an umbrella up – they know this.

The weather woman or man on the TV knows this.

Those who operate the Bay Bridge – know this on windy days – when they know big trucks will be moving across it.

The wind, as Jesus put it, blows where it wills.

Tornados, hurricanes, storms, come pushing towards us – and usually never at a time we expect them.

In the Book of Genesis, 3: 8, Adam and Eve, experience God when He comes to them in the garden – for a walk and a talk  - in the cool of the evening.

In the First Book of Kings, Chapter 19, Elijah experiences God in a tiny, whispering sound – and not in the strong and violent wind that crashes against the mountain – or the earthquake or in fire.

And others cry to God in the tornado or hurricane.

In the Acts of the Apostles – the disciples were in the locked upper room, filled with fear, - part of the scene in today's first reading - Acts 4: 23-31. It’s then that the Spirit of God, the Wind of God, comes barreling into the house they were in. The Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, shook them down to their bones – and brought them back to life – just like the scene in Ezekiel – where all the dead – were seen to rise from the dead and come back to life.

If we’ve ever been out on the Bay – or the Ocean – or a lake or even the Lake of Galilee, we’ve seen and felt wind across the waters.

I’m trying in this homily to say that there is something about wind and God, wind and the Spirit.


The Book of Genesis – and all through the Scriptures – we get hints at what Jesus was coming up with when he said, “The Wind does what it wills.”

The various religions all know this: breathe in and breathe out – feel God in your breath – the God who formed us from the clay of the earth  - and breathed life into us.

We know the new born baby needs to get breathing. We know the dying person takes that last breath.

The wind, our breath, the invisible air – but so, so real – because we not only see plastic bags flying on a windy day – but birds glide on the air every day. We’ve seen sails pregnant – flags flapping – and kites flying – each telling us that they have a touch of the Spirit in them. Amen. 

Poem for Today - April 28, 2014 

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

© John Updike

Sunday, April 27, 2014



The title of my homily is, “Love Laughs at Locksmiths.”

It’s an old English proverb. It’s also the name of an old British comic opera from around 1800. I never saw it, but reading about it once, I jotted down the title, because I thought it will be a great title for a homily someday.  It’s also the name of two short YouTube movies: one has 257 viewers and one has 16 viewers. Interesting.

“Love Laughs at Locksmiths.”

We get that image.


Today’s gospel begins with the image of locked doors:
“On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked,
where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

God laughs at locked doors.

Jesus comes through the locked doors of the upper room – he comes through the locked doors of the disciples minds – he goes through fear and says, “Peace be with you.”

They had to be feeling various pulls of guilt and emotions – feeling stupid that they put all their trust in Jesus and he gets arrested and killed – and they ran away when he needed their presence the most.


In every person – there are locked doors.

In every person there are doubts.  Like Thomas we have our doubts. That’s why he’s put in today’s gospel story.

In fact, up until recently, today was called, “Doubting Thomas Sunday.” We all have faith hesitations. We want to see and know more. Wouldn't faith be easier, if we were there in that Upper Room –way back when -  and actually experienced the Risen Christ.

Today is also called “Divine Mercy Sunday” and in every person there is also locked inside of each of us the down deep cry for Mercy - forgiveness  - hope.

Today – at this time – we also have Earth Day!  Like doubt, like faith, like the cry for mercy, the reality of our earth should help us big time with our faith. Who put the moon and Mars and the million stars in space out there? And back here on earth a beautiful ocean, mountain, sunrise, sunset, seeing cherry blossom trees in bloom, seeing a baby’s smile or an old couple walking down the street holding hands, should help us with our faith – and get us to evoke what Thomas said to the Risen Lord Jesus in today’s gospel, “My Lord and my God.”

So we have lots of stuff locked inside of us.

In every person there is also that secret, that hidden moment, that deep hurt or deep mistake or deep what have you – and we keep it in a locked safe, box, closet, and Jesus every once and a while - or we wish that every once Jesus would come to us and say, “Peace be with you.”

When we think of our past, we wish every once and a while he would come to us and open up that closet – take out that locked box – shake out its contents – lay it on the bed – and say to us, “Peace be with you.”

There was a famous old Redemptorist sermon where Jesus is pictured as a rag man or garbage collector going through neighborhoods calling out, “Any old junk you want to get rid of, here I am the Junk Collector.”

I remember stealing that image for a sermon once. I noticed it hit home. So I also stole it for one of my books. 

I had any of us standing there in the crowd listening to Jesus preach.

Then standing there deep in thought afterwards at the edge of the crowd, Jesus touches the edge of our coat and invites himself into our house for dinner.

Then after dinner, Jesus asks, “Are you going to invite me down into your basement?”

We take him down there and he asks, “What’s in that old desk in the back?”

The desk is locked and the drawers are facing the wall – and Jesus  gets us to pull the desk away from the wall – and open up the bottom drawer – and take out the book – the book with all the sins of our life – and he asks us if we want him to take it away – and then he asks us if he wants us to take away the other book.

And we nervously say, “You know about that one too?” And Jesus says with a soft smile, “Of course, everyone has both books.”

And we know this: the book that has the list of our sins and the book that has the list of the hurts against us.

Love laughs at locksmiths.


This Sunday is all about all of this. It’s called Divine Mercy Sunday – that our God is a God of mercy, forgiveness, peace.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of our world.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the guilt of our world.

Jesus is the Lamb of God – who helps us deal with the doubts of life – the here and the hereafter.

Jesus came to bring us Divine Mercy.


This Sunday in Rome – two popes are being canonized saints.

Someone said, Pope Francis picked the canonization of both together to bring together liberals and conservatives in our church.

Will Francis be canonized some day with Benedict?

I’m sure he had that thought – or if he did, I’m sure it evoked a laugh deep within Francis.

I saw some lady on TV complaining that Pope John Paul II shouldn’t be canonized a saint because of all the child abuse by priests during his time as pope – and he could have done something or done more.

I’m sure there are some thoughts about Pope John 23 as well.

I hope everyone can have mercy and forgiveness and have the ability to laugh at times.

You know St. Teresa of Avila's prayer: 
              "From silly devotions 
               and sour-faced saints, 
               Good Lord, deliver us."

So there is sin and silliness, stupidity and sour-faced people in life.

There are mistakes. There are hurts in life. There are sins in life. People are hurt in life.

And obviously we need not just forgiveness and mercy – compassion and understanding - but we also need to take the best steps to avoid abuse and stop abuse of any kind.

But sin will continue – sorry to say – and hopefully we will continue with the mercy and the forgiveness and forgiving one another each day.


The title of my homily was, “Love Laughs At Locksmiths.”

A saint is someone in heaven. So let me close with an epitaph on the tombstone of a Puritanical Locksmith – somewhere in an English cemetery. It's dated 1637 and describes his arrival in heaven:

A zealous locksmith died of late,
And did arrive at heaven gate,
He stood without and would not knock
Because he meant to pick the lock.


Poem for Today - April 27, 2014


I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
Or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this b
be if it isn’t prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

© Mary Oliver, pages 3-4

A Thousand Mornings