A Fool Can't Have a Good Time

Homily:Sunday,8/1/10


In today’s Gospel, God spoke harshly to a dying rich man. Let’s look at what happened. The man brought in a harvest that was more than his barns could hold, so he said he would tear down those barns, and as quickly as possible construct ones big enough to hold his crop. But God told him he had to die, and if that wasn’t bad enough, God called him a fool. Why would he do that?

In looking for an answer we might begin with a picture of harvest time with dirt farmers. With little from last year’s harvest left to eat, they had been starving through sixteen hour work days, getting  the harvest in. Then, by a stunning reversal, they had plenty to eat, and they had the freedom from labor that brought on marriages and marriage feasts. It was unbounded joy that only the rich man missed out on. Rather than let his abundance serve him, he had to serve his abundance. The man was a fool because he didn’t know how to have a good time.

The second reading, taking a conventional religious stand against wealth has Paul saying, “Think of what is above, not of what is of earth.” But the first reading returned to the viewpoint of God in the Gospel. Ecclesiastes laughed at anyone who spent a lifetime working, only to be forced to leave his wealth to unappreciative relatives.

Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 10this entry is a continuation of a series started on July 23, 2010. Following each homily, I have a passage concerning how to pray your own mysteries of the rosary. This group of mysteries are taken from St. John's gospel.  See the first five entries of this series here.

“Was the Word” (2nd God Mystery)

For us the Word is the Second Person in the Trinity, the Son of the Father. If we stop to wonder about it we might ask why John called him the Word. To find the answer to that we might begin by remembering that John wrote his Gospel in Greek. He would not have written the “Word.” He would have written the Greek for that, which was the “Logos.” And for his Greek speaking audience the Logos had a special meaning.


In John’s time the Greeks no longer gave serious thought to their ancient gods. For the most part, they accepted the teachings of the Stoic philosophers. What those long robed gentlemen believed in was a divine principle something like our Mother Nature. To that divine principle in nature they gave the name the “Logos.” The religion of the Stoics consisted partly in eliminating the vices that encrust the Logos in us. It consisted as well in artistic and scholarly pursuits that brought the Logos in them to shine through their baser crust.

For them the divine Logos was only a principle imbedded in nature. If John could be believed, and the Logos had a separate existence as a person it was awesome.

St. Ignatius's Love For God

Homily: 7/31/10
St. Ignatius of Loyola went to heaven five hundred and fifty-four years ago today. A Basque, he was born the year before Columbus discovered America. He spent his youth in battles against the French, then, after suffering cannonball hits in both legs, he spent two years recuperating in a cellar. Lying there, he over and over read a Life of Jesus that had him becoming a soldier for Christ. For a start, for three years he joined young boys in a primary school. Afterwords, travelling to Paris, he worked for  seven years to earn a masters of arts degree.

In Paris Ignatius acquired seven followers who formed themselves into a military company dedicated to serving the Lord. Moving to Rome, Ignatius won papal approval for his Company, the Jesuits,  dispatching his “soldiers” to missionary fields and to spiritual combat with Protestantism.

The reading from First Corinthians that is assigned to his Mass speaks well of Ignatius. In it we hear him telling his “soldiers” to avoid giving offense to anyone, and to do all for the glory of God. They were never to seek their own benefit. They were to seek the good of others. He could confidently tell them, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, part 9this entry is a continuation of a series started on July 23, 2010. Following each homily, I have a passage concerning how to pray your own mysteries of the rosary. First five passages of this series here.


“In the beginning” (1st God Mystery)
Those opening words of John’s Gospel put you with God back when there was nothing but God. This year brought us several books that told us there was no God, and there never was a beginning.  But, you might have noticed a quite different book that came out this year. Belief by Francis S. Collins gathers the God experiences of  Plato, St. Anselm, C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonheoffer, and G. K. Chesterton. I am interested in getting a hold of that book.

On this topic there was recently a letter to the editor published in the New york Times. The writer challenged a published assertion that there was no hidden intelligence behind the laws of nature. The writer's opinion was that the laws of nature were too complex and well coordinated for them just to have happened. My take on that is to say that for the laws to have just come together is as unlikely as it would be that the ninety-nine letter tiles for Scrabble when dumped on a table could align themselves to spell out the Gettysberg address.

But, what am I doing? This is a time for prayer, not argument. John has told us that you, Lord, are love. So, from the beginning were you the sum of everything that I would come to love in my little span of time?

Putting Up With Rejection

Friday, 7/30/10

The readings today present us first with Jeremiah, then with Jesus being rejected by their own people. No one could have been finer than those two. No one could have been better at  explaining what is right and wrong. Still, they were despised. The people in power said Jeremiah should be put to death.  The friends Jesus grew up with tried to throw him off a cliff to his death.

How did Jeremiah and Jesus feel about being rejection? It was more painful for them than it would be for us, since they were more sensitive than we are. When we find ourselves undervalued it might help us to pray to Jeremiah and Jesus for help in getting over it.

Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 8this entry is a continuation of a series started on July 23, 2010. Following each homily, I have a passage concerning how to pray your own mysteries of the rosary. First 5 passages are here.

For fifteen days starting tomorrow I will be offering a series of verses from Chapter One of John’s Gospel, and along with them I will give thoughts they could give rise to. You must start these meditations by putting yourself in God’s presence, letting thoughts from him well up you. With those thoughts directing your prayer you probably won't need my suggestions.

 I was touched by the advice for praying that a Carmelite mother superior gave to her nuns.  She told them to, “Stay supple to God’s grace.” Ideally, your mental prayer will move from thought-heavy meditating to a calm contemplation in God’s presence.

The Hail Mary's you say will be your way of holding Mary's hand, and the beads will keep you from getting lost in distractions. When you look down and discover that they have been slipping by without your really meditating, the beads will snap you back into praying.

In following Chapter One of John for your rosary mysteries you will find that the first five mysteries deal with God, the second with Christ, and the last five with us.

Jesus Had Ordinary Friends

Thursday, 7/29/10


Today is Martha’s feast day. We are anxious to know what we can about her because she is one of the few ordinary people who were friends of Jesus. The disciples and Pharisees were business associates, but Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were just friends. When Lazarus fell sick Martha summoned Jesus, by referring to Lazarus as one whom Jesus loved.


We mostly think of Martha as scaring up dinner for Jesus and the Apostles with Mary not giving her a hand. We see more of Martha in today’s Gospel. She, not Mary, was the one notified of Jesus’ coming, and when she came to him she immediately revealed the depth of her trust. She said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

No one else in the Gospels ever expressed that much faith in Jesus. But even with that, when Jesus asked that the stone be removed Martha felt she had to say, “”Lord, it’s been four days now. There will be a stench.”

Now, challenge yourself to imagine what Martha felt when she saw her brother come back for the dead.


Fifteen Mysteries for Mary—an example of Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries.  [This entry is a continuation of a series started on July 23, 2010. Following each homily, I have a passage concerning how to pray your own mysteries of the rosary. Part 1 with first five entries is here.]

 1.   “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.”--- Luke 1:28
2.    Mary pondered what that greeting might mean. ---Luke 1:29
3.    “How can this be? I have no relations with a man.”--- Luke 1:34
4.    Mary set out to the hill country. --- Luke 1:39
5.    How can the mother of my Lord’s come to me?”--- Luke 1:43

6.    “My soul magnifies the Lord.” ---Luke 1:46
7.    Joseph decided on divorcing her quietly.--- Matthew 1:20
8.    Mary reflected on the shepherds’ visit in her heart. ---Luke 2:19
9.    Simeon said, “And your soul a sword shall pierce.” ---Luke 2:35
10.  “Your father and I have sought you sorrowing.” ---Luke 2:48

11.  The mother of Jesus said, “They have no wine.” ---John 2:3
12.  Standing by the cross of Jesus was his mother. ---John 19:25    
13.  He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” --- John 19:27
14.  They took down the body of Jesus. ---John 19:40
15.  They went to the upper room, and Mary was there. ---Acts 2:14                       

Giving Up All To Possess the Precious Pearl

Wednesday, 7/28/10

Today’s readings fit nicely together. Jeremiah complains of all he had to give up to become a follower of the Lord. He was looking enviously on the circle of merrymakers he would like to join. But he has been called by the Lord to alert his countrymen to the evils their easy lives will bring on them. Stuck in this role, he has won the reputation of being a man of strife. It has  condemned him to sit alone filled with indignation.


The Gospel is addressed to others who like Jeremiah have cultivated goodness, avoiding the round of pleasures that have always tempted them. Our Lord's words assure them that they have opted for is a great treasure, a uniquely precious pearl. We might say that the Gospel is also addressed to all those who are still undecided between opting for loads of pleasure or for Godly lives. 

Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 6this entry is a continuation of a series started on July 23, 2010. Following each homily, I have a passage concerning how to pray your own mysteries of the rosary. For newcomers who want to catch up, read the first five entries here.

Events of Holy Week make a very good example of a rosary meditation:
  
 1.    The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem—Luke 19: 28-40
2.    The cleansing of the temple—Luke 19:45-48
3.    Jesus curses a fig tree—Mark 11: 12-14, 20-21
4.    The authority of Jesus—Luke 20: 1-8
5.    Mary of Bethany anoints the feet of Jesus—John 12: 1-8

6.    Jesus washes the feet of the disciples—John 13: 1-11
7.    Jesus gives the disciples his body—Luke 22: 14-19
8.    Jesus inaugurates the New Covenant—Luke 22: 20
9.    He gives the commandment of the New Covenant—John 13: 34-35
10.  Jesus foretold the sin and repentance of Peter—Luke 22:31-

11.  In the Garden Jesus accepts God’s will.—Luke 22: 39
12.  “Weep for yourselves and for your children”—23:28
13.  “Forgive them. They know not what they do.”--- Luke 23:34
14.  “I thirst.” --- John 19:28
15.  “It is finished.”--- John 19:30           

Wandering Aimlessly Through One City's Ruins

Homily: 7/27/10


In the first reading we see Jeremiah wandering aimlessly through the ruins of Jerusalem. In 587 B.C. the Babylonians pushed over the walls of the temple, palaces, and public buildings. Jerusalem, after six hundred years of proud prosperity had become a ruin. Foraging for food, the old people had to step over the unburied dead.

The scene would be sadly familiar to today’s banished populations of Somalia, Darfur, and Cambodia. Mexican border people ravaged by drug mobs would say their conditions were not much better than those of Jeremiah’s Jerusalem.

Forty years ago Disney gave us the first of a great line of nature films. His close up camera coverage of a dozen ducks gliding through the waters of the Everglades was marvelous. The little flotilla of ducks knew how to keep inches out of the range of the lunges the alligators could make toward them.  But then one little duck swayed a little too far to the right, and the gator gulped him. The other eleven ducks corrected their course by inches, and glided on, showing no concern for their fellow.

Those of us who are out of the range of the Taliban, drug cartels and warlords cannot afford to glide on, unmindful of peoples who have been swallowed up. Even if we do not think it our business to help them, we should make it our business to pursue justice so we can stay out of the range of our own predators.



Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 5this entry is a continuation of a series started on July 23, 2010 to help readers enjoy and get more from their rosary meditations. Following each homily, I have a passage concerning how to pray your own mysteries of the rosary.  

Let’s return to my assertion that we could use the Bible for making up our own mysteries. I have two sets of fifteen mysteries each that I can follow on alternate days. My hope is that they will help me keep my beliefs and behavior in order. For beliefs I follow fifteen phrases from Chapter One of John’s Gospel. For behavior I make fifteen mysteries out of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Beatitudes.

Over the next month I will submit a separate short piece on each of the mysteries that helps my beliefs and behavior. But before getting on to them I will enlarge on my suggestion that you can make your own mysteries. You can read slowly through any favorite part of the New Testament, selecting fifteen phrases that have meaning for you.

To help you get the hang of this, tomorrow I will sketch out fifteen suggestions for meditating on the events of Holy Week. Then, the day after tomorrow I will give you fifteen suggestions for meditating on roles Mary plays in our salvation.

Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Parts 1 through 5


Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Parts 1 through 5.
Over the next month I am going to use this space to publish brief pieces on the rosary. I will be urging readers to use the Bible for making up their own rosary mysteries. In that, they would be following the example of Pope John Paul II who put together his five Luminous Mysteries: the Baptism of Jesus, the Marriage Feast at Cana, the preaching of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Last Supper.

I appreciated the pope’s new mysteries, because after seventy years of meditating on the Presentation and the Crowning of Mary I was weary of them. Now I am going with the freshness of mental pictures of the Wedding at Cana and the Transfiguration on that mountain.

But while I was enjoying the new mysteries I followed them only on Sundays. I was uneasy about straying from what I’d been taught in Grade School by the Dominican Sisters. Robed in white, with long rosaries clacking down to the floor, they told us that Mary herself had given the beads and mysteries to their St. Dominic. Could even the pope put aside the mysteries Mary gave us? I had to check on that.

Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 2

Where did Pope John Paul II get the right to make his changes in Mary’s rosary? For an answer to that I went to the set of Catholic Encyclopedias I bought forty years ago. There I found no records from St. Dominic’s lifetime connecting him with the rosary. It wasn’t until three hundred years later that the Dominican priest Alan de la Roche began telling the story of Mary giving the rosary and its mysteries to St. Dominic.

As for the origins of the rosary, the encyclopedia article credits the peasants of the Middle Ages with devising it little by little. The only church buildings open to peasants then were monastery chapels where they crowded in against the choir walls. Huddled there, listening to the monks chanting the hundred and fifty Psalms, they felt the need to somehow join in the worship.

Since they couldn’t chant the psalms, they set for themselves the goal of praying the Our Father a hundred and fifty times a week. After peasants at one monastery devised a way of keeping count, the peasants at other monasteries followed them. What they did was fashion a cord on which they strung a hundred and fifty beans. They called those primitive rosaries their “Paternosters,” and they called each bean a “bead,” which was their word for a prayer.


Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 3

When the peasants fell behind in praying the Our Father with every bead on their Paternosters, they improvised a shorter prayer. They called out Gabriel and Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, and over time a new prayer, the Hail Mary, took shape, finding its way on to their beads.

In striving to copy the monks, the peasants added another element to the prayers they said with their Paternosters. They loved the way the monks would break up their chants of Old Testament Psalms to sing hymns honoring Jesus and Mary. This had the peasants pausing after every ten beads to mention some New Testament event like the Annunciation, the Nativity or the death of Jesus on the cross.

By the time Father Alan de la Roche began preaching sermons in the Sixteenth Century the rosary had settled into the form it has today. It had the fifteen mysteries, and it had Catholics pausing for an Our Father after every ten Hail Mary’s. The only change would come with saintly people elevating the rosary from being just a vocal prayer to becoming a vehicle for contemplative prayers.


Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 4

In introducing his Luminous Mysteries Pope John Paul II was turning our attention to the contemplative aspect of the rosary. His participation in Vatican II had increased his leaning that way. He had heard the council’s chief Theologian, Father Karl Rahner, saying,  “Nothing benefits us as much as the contemplation of the mysteries of our religion.”

For years I had been trying to pay attention to both the mysteries and the words of the prayers, and it had me confused. This discomfort was turning my rosary into a thing I had to get through. Then, a memory from when I was four years old welled up to turn saying the rosary into a pleasure for me.

When I was four my mother would take me in tow as she pushed her way through a department store’s bustle. Secure in her grasp I might once or twice look lovingly up at her; but mostly I was so gaga over the sights and sounds and bustle that I forgot her. When I say the rosary now it’s the same. Muttering the Hail Mary’s while I give my attention to the mysteries of our faith is like holding Mary’s hand.


Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 5

Let’s return to my assertion that we could use the Bible for making up our own mysteries. I have two sets of fifteen mysteries each that I can follow on alternate days. My hope is that they will help me keep my beliefs and behavior in order. For beliefs I follow fifteen phrases from Chapter One of John’s Gospel. For behavior I make fifteen mysteries out of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Beatitudes.

Over the next month I will submit a separate short piece on each of the mysteries that helps my beliefs and behavior. But before getting on to them I will enlarge on my suggestion that you can make your own mysteries. You can read slowly through any favorite part of the New Testament, selecting fifteen phrases that have meaning for you.

To help you get the hang of this, tomorrow I will sketch out fifteen suggestions for meditating on the events of Holy Week. Then, the day after tomorrow I will give you fifteen suggestions for meditating on roles Mary plays in our salvation.  [written by Fr. Tom Sullivan, posted by KB 7/27/10]

Good Men, Like Yeast, Must Lift the Mass


Today we honor Mary’s parents, to whom later times gave the name Joachim and Anne. There is nothing we can say about them other than that they must have been a wonderful couple.


In the Gospel Jesus gives us his finest short parable, but first let me say something about the very strange first reading. God told Jeremiah to clothe himself in a fine linen undergarment. When he had put on the garment Jeremiah looked down at himself, thinking nothing had ever been finer or closer to him. God told him to bury the garment in the desert, leaving it there until it had rotted, taking on a stench. Then God told him the Israelites had been just as fine and close to him, but by their gross behavior his once chosen people had become repulsive to him. God had Jeremiah show the putrid garment to the Israelites in the hope it would jolt them out of their wickedness, but it didn’t.


As for the wonderful short parable, Jesus compared the mass of mankind to three bushels of wheaten flour. He compared a true disciple to the yeast that must mix with the flour until it wonderfully rises. The parable of the yeast tells us that good people should not cut themselves off from worldly people, rather they should mix with them, helping them to rise. 

Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 4this entry is a continuation of a series started on July 23, 2010. Following each homily, I have a passage concerning how to pray your own mysteries of the rosary.

In introducing his Luminous Mysteries Pope John Paul II was turning our attention to the contemplative aspect of the rosary. His participation in Vatican II had increased his leaning that way. He had heard the council’s chief Theologian, Father Karl Rahner, saying,  “Nothing benefits us as much as the contemplation of the mysteries of our religion.”

For years I had been trying to pay attention to both the mysteries and the words of the prayers, and it had me confused. This discomfort was turning my rosary into a thing I had to get through. Then, a memory from when I was four years old welled up to turn saying the rosary into a pleasure for me.

When I was four my mother would take me in tow as she pushed her way through a department store’s bustle. Secure in her grasp I might once or twice look lovingly up at her; but mostly I was so gaga over the sights and sounds and bustle that I forgot her. When I say the rosary now it’s the same. Muttering the Hail Mary’s while I give my attention to the mysteries of our faith is like holding Mary’s hand.

Do We Get What We Pray For?

Homily: Sunday, 7/25/10

In the Gospel Our Lord makes a threefold promise: Ask and you will receive, Seek and you will find, Knock and it will be opened to you. It’s cute how the acronym of those three promises spells out Ask.
But, in fact, do we receive whatever we ask for in prayer? I have not found that to be the case. What if on the same day there was one saint praying for rain, and another for no rain, how could God give both what they prayed for?

The first reading tells us something about how God responds to our prayers. In the story God reveals to Abraham that he is about to go down to Sodom, and if he finds it as wicked as reports have it, he would proceed to destroy it. That had Abraham making a clever series of prayers, to each of which God gave a favorable reply. He would not destroy the city if he there found fifty, forty, thirty, twenty just men.

In the end Abraham’s prayers could not interfere with the judgment Sodom brought on itself by its complete rebellion. But the story tells us that prayers do help. We might not get just what we ask for, but we will get a full hearing.

There is another moral to the story. We often hear how one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. We hear how a few strategically placed agitators can sway an assembly of good people to make an evil decision. Well, this story about Abraham bargaining with God teaches the opposite lesson. It says that the value of good men is such that the presence of ten of them can save a city that is almost totally evil. So, if you few people here can exhibit lives of pure goodness you will be enough to save all of Jacksonville.

Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 3; this entry is a continuation of a series started on July 23, 2010. Following each homily, I have a passage concerning how to pray your own mysteries of the rosary.

When the peasants fell behind in praying the Our Father with every bead on their Paternosters, they improvised a shorter prayer. They called out Gabriel and Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, and over time a new prayer, the Hail Mary, took shape, finding its way on to their beads.

In striving to copy the monks, the peasants added another element to the prayers they said with their Paternosters. They loved the way the monks would break up their chants of Old Testament Psalms to sing hymns honoring Jesus and Mary. This had the peasants pausing after every ten beads to mention some New Testament event like the Annunciation, the Nativity or the death of Jesus on the cross.

By the time Father Alan de la Roche began preaching sermons in the Sixteenth Century the rosary had settled into the form it has today. It had the fifteen mysteries, and it had Catholics pausing for an Our Father after every ten Hail Mary’s. The only change would come with saintly people elevating the rosary from being just a vocal prayer to becoming a vehicle for contemplative prayers.


The Weeds Will Be Gathered and Burnt

Saturday, 7/24/10

Homily:
Today’s Gospel likens our society to a field where both fine wheat and weeds are flourishing. This unhealthy state of affairs sets us wondering why the Lord doesn’t get rid of the weeds. And, if the Lord doesn’t do the weeding, shouldn’t we do it? The answer the Lord gives us in the Gospel is that uprooting all evil-doers would also harm their families and associates. It’s better to, as the expression goes to, “Leave them to heaven.”

The first reading gives a caricature of people who get along giving only a show of religion. God, in 980 B.C. had promised David that his house and kingdom would endure forever. That had the people of Jerusalem taking that promise to be God’s guarantee that no matter how badly they behaved, God would protect them and their temple. The people expressed that misplaced trust in a silly practice that had become quite common. Without bothering to worship in the temple, they still came to its great doors, then, rapping on them three times they would call out, “The temple of the Lord. The temple of the Lord. The temple of the Lord.” But Jeremiah said that stupid rite would not save Jerusalem if it did not return to a practice of justice. Similarly, on our part, a mere empty show of religion will do us no good.

Praying Your Own Mysteries of the Rosary, Part 2 in a series; this entry is a continuation of a series started on July 23, 2010. Following each homily, I have a passage concerning how to pray your own mysteries of the rosary.

Where did Pope John Paul II get the right to make his changes in Mary’s rosary? For an answer to that I went to the set of Catholic Encyclopedias I bought forty years ago. There I found no records from St. Dominic’s lifetime connecting him with the rosary. It wasn’t until three hundred years later that the Dominican priest Alan de la Roche began telling the story of Mary giving the rosary and its mysteries to St. Dominic.

As for the origins of the rosary, the encyclopedia article credits the peasants of the Middle Ages with little by little devising it. The only church buildings open to peasants then were monastery chapels where they crowded in against the choir walls. Huddled there, listening to the monks chanting the hundred and fifty Psalms, they felt the need to somehow join in the worship.

Since they couldn’t chant the psalms, they set for themselves the goal of praying the Our Father a hundred and fifty times a week. After peasants at one monastery devised a way of keeping count, the peasants at other monasteries followed them. What they did was fashion a cord on which they strung a hundred and fifty beans. They called those primitive rosaries their “Paternosters,” and they called each bean a “bead,” which was their word for a prayer.

Praying Your Own Rosary Mysteries, Part 1 in a series

Over the next month I am going to use this space to publish brief pieces on the rosary. I will be urging readers to use the Bible for making up their own rosary mysteries. In that they would be following the example of Pope John Paul II who put together his five Luminous Mysteries: the Baptism of Jesus, the Marriage Feast at Cana, the preaching of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Last Supper.


I appreciated the pope’s new mysteries, because after seventy years of meditating on the Presentation and the Crowning of Mary I was weary of them. Now I am going with the freshness of mental pictures of the Wedding at Cana and the Transfiguration on that mountain. 

But while I was enjoying the new mysteries I followed them only on Sundays. I was uneasy about straying from what I’d been taught in Grade School by the Dominican Sisters. Robed in white, with long rosaries clacking down to the floor, they told us that Mary herself had given the beads and mysteries to their St. Dominic. Could even the pope put aside the mysteries Mary gave us? I had to check on that.

Heeding God's Word

Friday, 7/23/10

My first years in Korea, in 1954 and ’55 the American Army motor pool up the road from me was ruled by a lieutenant with saddle bar mustaches. He was always going over vehicles with what he called his gig list. It covered all that could go wrong with a truck of jeep: things like low tires, broken springs, smoking pistons. (He most hated drivers who let the engine oil run low. He’d shout, “You can drive that truck all day without gasoline, but you gotta have oil.”)

Anyway, Our Lord’s parable of the sower who went out to sow his seed is like a gig list. The seed is the word of God. Sometimes it doesn’t take root with you because dizzy thoughts like so many birds peck it off, not letting it sink it.

Other times you like God’s word, taking it in, but not rooting deep in your soul by meditating on it and building good habits to let it flourish.

Sometimes the word of God takes root in your soul, but then hardy weeds like lust and greed squeeze the life out of it.

Sometimes, though your soul presents the seed of God’s word with good soil where it takes root and flourishes.

The Magdalene's Love for Our Lord

Thursday, 7/22/10
In Mary Magdalene our Gospel offers a picture of sincere love for the Lord. Her love for Jesus was so intense that she was alone in perceiving in his face the sadness of his upcoming death. It had her gathering all her coins to purchase the rare nard for anointing him for death. Then, after his death she was the first one at his tomb for completing the anointing of his beloved body.

Jeremiah, the Reluctant Prophet

Wednesday, 7/21/10

Except for Sundays and feast days our first readings through the first week of August will all be from the prophet Jeremiah who ranks with Isaiah as the great men of the Old Testament. He was called to his office in 626 B.C. seventy years after Isaiah.

It is interesting that God told Jeremiah that he had known him before he was formed in the womb. That might set you to wondering if God has always known you.

He began his prophesying during the reign of the reforming king Josiah, but was to combat the introduction of other gods after the death of Josiah in 609.

Jeremiah could be the patron saint of people who wish that religion would leave them alone. In this first reading he pleads to be excused because he is young and a poor speaker. While it was a burning coal that touched Isaiah’s lips preparing him to speak God’s word, with Jeremiah God himself touched his lips fitting him to be his spokesman.

The Lord Promises Eventual Victory

Tuesday, 7/20/10

 In the first reading the prophet Micah in 700 B.C. speaks to “the remnant of his inheritance.” They were the people of Judah in the years after 722 when the ten northern tribes had been carried off. He promised them that they would reclaim the forests of Carmel and the grasslands of Bashan that had been taken over by the Assyrians. Of course that is all dead ancient history for us, but it is an assertion both of God’s power and his love for his faithful ones. In the troubles of our times it is comforting to know that if we are faithful to him we will have his power and love to pull us through.

That love is tenderly proffered to us in the Gospel where Jesus says we are mothers and brothers to him.

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Micah's Definition of Righteousnes

Monday, 7/19/10

 In the fist reading Micah back in 700 B.C. was approached by the men of his time who were boasting of their many religious endeavors, asking why none of them were gaining favor with God. They had offered year old calves. They had poured streams of precious olive oil on is altar. One of them had gone so far as to make a sacrifice of his first born son, and yet God was not pleased with any of them.

I don’t know what would be the equivalent of that for us today. Perhaps we could make as big a display if we were to go on a hunger strike or donate a fortune to the church.

Micah’s recipe for pleasing God was that the men of his time should “Do right, love justice, and walk humbly with God.” James’ advice in the New Testament was similar: “Religion pure and undefiled before God is this: care for orphans and widows in their affliction and keep oneself unstained by the world.”

The Bible Tells Us To Be Hospitable

Sunday, 7/18/10

Today’s readings are about hospitality. Martha was so gracious that Jesus was free to land in on her with the twelve fishermen who followed him around. Nothing could have made her guests more at home than Martha displaying herself as a typical older sister. “Lord, doesn’t it bother you that this sister of mine has left me all alone to serve the whole bunch of you?” That must have had the Apostles chuckling, saying, “It’s just like that with my sisters.”

The reading from Chapter Nineteen of Genesis is a catalogue of hospitality. 1. Abraham was not too self-absorbed to miss the sight of weary strangers. 2. He ran out to them. 3. He bowed. 4. He made them feel they’d be doing him a favor by stopping. 5. He bathed their hot feet. 6. He had them rest under the tree. 7. He begged them for the favor of letting him provide nourishment. 8. He prepared bread and meat enough for an army. 9. He waited on them himself. 9. While Sarah laughed at the guest for saying she would have a son in her nineties, Abraham wouldn’t laugh at his guest’s words. 10. When they left he walked out with them, reluctant to see them leave. In teaching the Sixth Grade I enjoyed seeing how many hospitable acts the kids could catch on to.

Justice and Injustice

Saturday, 7/17/10

Our readings give us pictures of two men. Micah, was a farmer in the sixth century B.C.. He grew up loving his ancestral land in the rough hills that separated the Dead Sea from the plains. He loved clear mornings when he could glimpse the distant Mediterranean, and he writes of the same mornings for greedy neighbors. They came from their couches with plans for annexing their neighbors’ holdings. He foresees the utter poverty that their greed will bring on them.

The Gospel presents us the opposite of those neighbors who planned to capture wealth and power. Christ, The Father’s servant will bring forth justice in the most quiet of ways. Rather than focusing on land grabs, he will devote himself to raising up stumbling students. He will not snuff out the light of their minds, and he will not snap the reed that is their struggles at expressing themselves in writing.

True Science and Religion Agree

Friday, 7/16/10

The first reading tells us that in 701 B.C. when the Assyrian king Sennacherib was set to enter Jerusalem Isaiah assured king Hezekiah that the Assyrians would be stopped. Then, as proof of his prediction he commanded the shadow of the sun on a stairway to go back up ten steps it had already passed down.

The Catholic Church in 1633 took this story to mean that the sun moved around the earth, and it was used to convict Galileo of heresy for insisting that it was the earth that was in orbit around the sun.

In the first half of the twentieth century, with the spread of Darwinism, our church came around to making it a sin for parents to send their children to universities that spread modern theories that were contrary to what the church had always taught.

Happily, the church has now apologized to the spirit of Galileo, and it has come around to giving respect to all sincere scientists for what they reveal to us of the wonders of creation.

Take up His Yoke

Thursday, 7/15/10

When we come around to this Gospel we should put our imaginations to work, picturing the yoke that is waiting for us. A yoke is a wooden bar with a double curve to fit over the shoulders of two oxen. Jesus is the ox under one side of the yoke. He has found happiness by not resisting the father’s urging. He invites you to take on the other side of his yoke where you can learn from him how to find peace and happiness by not resisting God’s will.

God Wants Kindness, not Sacrifices

Monday, 7/12/10

In the first reading Isaiah follows the same line of religious instruction as that of the prophets Amos and Hosea. He says that what God desires is not elaborate religious rituals and sacrifices. Rather, God wants us to show kindness to his poor and to his abandoned children on this earth.

That way of thinking puts me in mind of a conversation I had with a priest three weeks ago when we happened to get seats next to each other on a plane. He told me he was a professor of spirituality, and I asked him if there wasn’t a danger that the  pursuit of spiritual excellence could lead one to pride. He asked what I meant, and I asked him if it might not be better to lose oneself in helping others, forgetting about higher degrees of holiness.

He pushed that question aside, and he said he was happy with the seminarians he was training, because they were all planning on going back to the Latin Mass. It didn’t seem like he and I were on the same wavelength, so we took to reading.

Christ Is Greater Than the Angels

After Mass today if anyone were to ask us about today’s readings, if we remembered them at all, what most of us would remember would be that they were about the Good Samaritan. But I ask you to look elsewhere. I want you to focus on the Second Reading, trying to grasp something of what it tells us about God the Son.

The second reading was addressed to the people of the town of Colossus who had been snared by a weird brand of Astrology. Where ordinary fans of Astrology believe that the planets determine their fate, the Colossians had bought the notion that each planet was ruled by its own angel. They had names for the various kinds of angels. There were thrones, dominions, and powers; and they believed they could become powerful by contacting those lords of the planets.

Now, St. Paul, in writing to the people of Colossus, chose to avoid arguing about whether there were mighty angels pushing the planets around. Instead, he said that even if such creatures existed, they would be nothing at all compared with the Son of God. He then went on to tell us more about the Father’s Son than we will find anywhere else in the Bible. And, since the greatest commandment tells us to love God with all our hearts and minds, it is worthwhile for us to give a moment to these truths.

We don’t know how, but somehow, the Son is the image of the invisible Father. And, we don’t know how, but somehow, all things were created through him and for him, and all our creation is held together in him.

Isaiah's Heavenly Vision

Our first reading is one of the most important passages in the Bible. In the year King Uzziah died, which was 642 B.C. Isaiah had a vision of heaven. The Jews of his time believed that God’s heavenly home was down-to-the-last-inch a copy of the Jerusalem temple, so naturally he envisioned God as dwelling in an identical structure. The flaming Seraphim hovering before God had wings to cover their faces. Our translation say they had wings to cover their feet but the Bible meant they covered their mid section. The holy, holy, holy called out by the Seraphim actually meant separate and aloof from everything human.

Realizing he was being called to lend his mouth to God for speaking God’s word, Isaiah cried out in anguish over the filth he had spoken. He was grateful for the cleansing his lips received from the red-hot coal in the angels tongs. Now he was able to say, “Send me.”

You Will Be Given What To Say

Friday, 7/9/10 homilog

Telling his disciples not to worry about what they might say if brought on trial for being Christians, Jesus told them, “You will be given at that moment what you are to say.”

Now, while it is likely that we will not be put on trial for our faith, we will at times get into tight situations.  We may be forced to decide about attending a disagreeable gathering. We might need to decide about keeping quiet over faults we have uncovered. Probably, no day passes without our being faced with a situation where we need help with the right answer.

Well, Jesus said a line of communication with him is in place. If we can pick up that invisible phone when we are on trial for our faith, we can pick it up other times as well. Why not? In him we live and move and have our being.  Unless we are a little crazy we are never going to get a message of so many words from God. No, what happens is that once we completely relax in his presence he will allow an acceptable course to bubble up in our consciousness.

Times Union: One Happy Old Priest

"One of Us" is a great way to capture Father Sullivan's book about his experience as a catholic: little "c."  Charlie Patton with the Florida Times Union picked up the story and his coverage is here.  Thanks to Charlie Patton and TU for the coverage.

Our World is Holy

Thursday, 7/8/10
In sending the disciples out to preach, Jesus said, “Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.” The disciples would have been surprised at being given that direction. There was only one time they were accustomed to performing the ritual of shaking the dust from their sandals. That was when they were about to enter God’s temple. In time they came to see that for Jesus the whole world was his holy temple. He did not want the dust of an inhospitable town being brought out and contaminating it.

In the first chapter of his Gospel John spoke of the Word who was to become flesh in the person of Jesus. He said everything in this universe was created in him, and through him. Even before John told us that the Word became flesh, he told us the Word was in the world though the world knew him not.

The modern emphasis on environmentalism is a holy pursuit in that it calls on us to revere the world made in God’s image.

Preaching first to the Lost Sheep

Wednesday, 7/7/10
Over the years I gained familiarity with the Gospel of Matthew that we are following this year. I was making up Religion courses for the top grades at St. Paul’s, and at Christmas in 1984 I decided on using Luke’s Gospel for the second semester text for our Seventh Grade. Making a show of being democratic, I asked the kids, “Which Gospel should we follow after Christmas?” I was sure they would leave it up to me, but a Lutheran boy, Raymond Fennel, said, “Matthew’s Gospel,” and I was stuck with it for twenty-three years.

At the end of each chapter in Matthew I posed a question for the kids to answer in writing. For Matthew's Chapter Ten my question was, “Was it right for Jesus to tell the Apostles to preach the word only to Jewish people, avoiding others?” I expected the kids to say whatever Jesus did had to be right, but more than half of them said it wasn’t right, since the rest of us needed God’s word.

In good time Jesus would send the Apostles to preach to the ends of the earth, but it was God’s plan to start with the Jews. I suppose this would be an application of the words in Ecclesiastes, according to which there is a time for everything. Parents can have their before dinner drink without the need to give each of the kids a belt.

Sheep without a Shepherd

Tuesday, 7/6/10
Our first readings this week are from the prophet Hosea who preached to the people of Ephraim. He prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel in 760 B.C., spending his days in the tribal land of Ephraim. Ephraim had been the second son of that Joseph who was sold into Egypt a thousand years earlier. Hosea told the people of Ephraim that by sowing the wind they would reap the whirlwind. That meant their dabbling in idolatry would mount up until they would be crushed by that vice. For all his harsh predictions, Hosea, long before his time, was an example of Jesus-like gentleness.

Jesus, going from town to town,came upon a market day bustle that had him stepping back in awe. Taking in the whole scene of conflicting desires, greed, and despair, he groaned in pity for human confusion. Seeing sheep as dependent creatures that couldn’t manage themselves, he compared that market day crowd to a jumble of aimless sheep.

These readings leave us to ask, “Why has the church put them before us?” Are we in any way like the people of Ephraim, sowing the winds of vice? Are we incapable of finding direction without our Good Shepherd?
Sunday, 7/4/10



Jesus had been going from villages to village, speaking with divine authority, and drawing immense crowds. The villages he had not yet visited were eagerly awaiting his coming to them. What a disappointment it must have been when instead of coming in person, he sent those seventy-two farmers and fishermen!

Even though priests like me get a good welcoming, I suppose people would be much happier if Jesus would personally make the rounds of our parishes.

People will just have to make do with priests like me. It’s God’s way of doing things. It’s what Jesus got started when he sent out those farmers and fishermen.

The first reading for every Sunday Mass was chosen for the way it goes along with the Gospel. Our first reading today says, “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her.” For us Jerusalem is our Catholic Church. It might be represented by farmers and fishermen, but it has stayed true to the Gospel, and it has the Holy Spirit as its soul.