The good works we put off somehow never get done.


Monday, 7/1/63

A certain scribe, impressed by Our Lord’s preaching, expressed a desire to follow him after his father passed on. Knowing that the man’s father had years to go, and knowing that before his father’s death, the scribe would have forgotten his good intentions, Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.”

We are like that scribe when we want to do more good things in this life, but with other things to do first, and feeling that we have all the time in the world; we put off doing those good things. Next thing we know, the time is up on us, and all we have to our credit are great acts of kindness we never got around to.

That situation makes me think of Michelangelo’s painting of the Last Judgment over the altar in the Sistine Chapel. At the top of he scene the triumphant Christ is gathering the blessed ones around him, and at the bottom of the painting the damned are being ferried across to hell. The center of the scene shows highly busy devils carrying souls down to destruction. One of those souls, more body than soul, is grasped around his thighs by a joyful green devil who is hauling him down. What is most striking about that poor fellow is the look of surprised horror on his face. He seems to greatly regret not getting around to the good things he meant to do in this life.  

Monday, 7/1/63

A certain scribe, impressed by Our Lord’s preaching, expressed a desire to follow him after his father passed on. Knowing that the man’s father had years to go, and knowing that before his father’s death, the scribe would have forgotten his good intentions, Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.”

We are like that scribe when we want to do more good things in this life, but with other things to do first, and feeling that we have all the time in the world; we put off doing those good things. Next thing we know, the time is up on us, and all we have to our credit are great acts of kindness we never got around to.

That situation makes me think of Michelangelo’s painting of the Last Judgment over the altar in the Sistine Chapel. At the top of he scene the triumphant Christ is gathering the blessed ones around him, and at the bottom of the painting the damned are being ferried across to hell. The center of the scene shows active devils carrying souls down to destruction. One of those souls, more body than soul, is grasped around his thighs by a joyful green devil who is hauling him down. What is most striking about that poor fellow is the look of surprised horror on his face. He seems to greatly regret not getting around to the good things he meant to do in this life.  

Believing in the Real Presence does nothing for us is we do not become one with Christ as part of a Pleasing Gift to God.


Sunday, 5/30/13

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, which was formally known as the Feast of Corpus Christi.

We might think of this as the day when we joyfully assert that Jesus is really present under the forms of bread and wine, however, we cannot stop at that. We must go on to learn what Jesus had in mind at the Last Supper when he said, “This is my body,” and, “This is the cup of my blood.” 

The accounts from the Last Supper tell us Jesus took up the bread and wine while saying the blessing, and to understand what he was getting at we need to have a better understanding of that blessing.

Every time the Jewish host offered the blessing at a formal meal, while he was meant to choose his own words, he still had to touch on three set points.

First, he had to call to mind the favors the diners had received from God.

Secondly, he had to beg God’s Spirit to come down on them to make them one, empowering them to speak back to God.

Thirdly, he had to ask the diners to join him in making themselves part of a pleasing gift to God in return for his favors.

There was a Greek name for each of those three parts. The Greek for the Pleasing Gift was Eu-charis.

Our Lord’s purpose in giving himself to his disciples to eat was to bind them to him, making themselves part of the Pleasing gift, the Eu-charis.

Through the first centuries that formal blessing developed into a Eucharistic Prayer. Even now, in whatever Eucharistic Prayer we follow at Mass any day, we can see that it contains those same three parts of calling to mind God's favors, calling down his Spirit, and making ourselves into a pleasing gif to God..

We need to believe in the Real Presence, but more important than that is our need at Mass to join Jesus heart and soul as part of a pleasing gift, as part of the Eucharist.   

Each day we pass by banks with millions of dollars really present in their vaults, but that money is of no use to us if we can’t make it ours to work with. In the same way, the Real Presence in our tabernacles is of use to us only if we unite ourselves with it for making ourselves part of his pleasing gift to God.

On this feast of Peter and Paul listen to a few things they said.



Saturday, 6/29/13

On this feast of St. Peter and St. Paul I want to visit some spots in their letters. From Peter’s Second Letter (2:17), you have words that would be good for your personal motto. On your coat of arms you could engrave, “Honor all men.”

Then, I liked the way Peter shared a precious memory in First Peter 1:17-18 when he wrote, “That unique declaration came to him, ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.”

Of course, St. Paul wrote many things that are beyond all price, but on this feast that he shares with Peter I like the passage where he scolded St. Peter. He was put out with Peter for eating only kosher to play up to the conservative Jews. His example had the Gentiles feeling they were wrong for eating their shellfish and pork. Calling Peter by its Greek equivalent of Kephas, he told the pope off. “I said to Kephas in sight of all, . . . how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 

We honor St. Irenaeus who insisted we stick with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.


Friday, 6/28/13

Today the Church honors Irenaeus for the way he insisted that we hold to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. As a boy born in Smyrna in 202 he often heard stories about John, the Beloved Apostle, who had died in Smyrna about fifty years before. It was an old man named Polycarp, who had known the Apostles John well, from whom Irenaeus heard about the teachings  of Jesus.

Irenaeus, who imported merchandise had dealings with the French city of Lyons. And when business called him there, the Christians of Lyons asked for help in clarifying just what the Apostles had taught on important issues. They were confused by a group of holy people who believed they were receiving new gospel messages from heaven. Irenaeus, as a kindly man, showed respect for those people, but he had to repeat what St. Paul had said against preaching any new Gospel.

Before long the Christians at Lyons began insisting that Irenaeus should become their bishop; and after he had given in to their requests, he began receiving pleas from Rome to come and deal with people there who claimed they were receiving new gospels.

I once had a three-year-old niece who insisted she already knew anything I told her. She’d just say, “I know. I know.” The people in Rome who thought they had new Gospels were like my niece. The Greek for “I know” is “Gnosco,” And that had Christians applying the name of Gnostics to people who said they had heard everything from their heavenly sources.

The Gnostics were similar to the Astrologists who say they learn secrets from the position of the planets. Going beyond that, the Gnostics thought they were in communication with the spirits who moved those planets about.

Irenaeus had the whole Church believing that there were no new gospels after the death of the Apostles. He said that to get at Christ’s authentic teachings we could travel around the Mediterranean to the churches founded by each of the Apostles; but he went on to say, “Since it would be tedious to reckon up the succession of all the churches, we will indicate that tradition derived from the apostles of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul. It is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this church.”  

We must build our lives on the solid rock of the rules Jesus set out in his Sermon on the Mount.


Thursday, 6/27/13

Our Lord’s story about the houses built on rock and sand remind me two buildings built in our coastal town of Korea in June of 1953. The way they weathered the storm, is teaching me something about fixing my life on the rock of Christ’s teaching.

In that town our church and rectory were on a sharp hill just above the harbor, and the police had recently completed a frame structure on the sand immediately below us. As well, that June I had been trying to help two young married Catholics who were building a two-room house they would share.

For their place they planned a four foot deep kitchen at one end. Then, the house proper would consist of two nine-by-nine rooms, one for each family. That had them  setting up eight corner posts. I was in on their digging a four-foot hole for each post, and I was with them carting up eight boulders from a  streambed. I watched them slide each of the boulders into its hole. And I watched them fix a corner post on each boulder, going on to pour concrete around it in its hole.

From the black market the boys bought a huge spool of communication wire which they weaved over and over between the uprights, making a thick netting . When they had prepared a trough of oozy wet clay, I got into the act, plastering muck onto the webbing. With it drying soon enough, they whitewashed those walls; and, of course, they finished off the structure with a thatched roof.

My Irish pastor was away then, but he had built the rectory and church walls with poured concrete. I felt snug in there through a night of howling hurricane winds. In the morning when I could venture out onto our yard, I found that a third of our hill had slid down, taking all of the framed police barracks into the harbor. 

Then, with the bright brown mud of our road looking like a long tureen of bean soup, I got into hip high waders, and I sloshed down to find intact the house the boys had built on rock.

Our Lord’s parable was not about house building, but about building secure lives. We do that by founding our lives on the solid rock of the rules for justice and love he laid out for us in the Sermon on the Mount. 

God met with Abraham on Abraham's level, as he stoops to be one with every human.


Wednesday, 6/26/13

The first reading tells us how God made his covenant with Abraham in 1800 B.C. back when Abraham did not know how to read and write. For the formal ceremony of agreeing to the covenant God let Abraham make the preparations in the only way Abraham knew such things could be done.

Back then there were no governments or formal laws, there were only wandering tribes with their members being completely obedient to their leaders. When it was necessary for two wandering tribes to reach an agreement for sharing grassland or water rights they prepared for a ceremony by digging a three-foot trench across a field between tribes squatting on opposite sides of that field. Then, they would slice down the middle a three-year-old heifer, a she goat, and a ram; placing the halves opposite each other at different stretches of the ditch.

At the same moment the leader of each tribe would step down into his end of the ditch, then walk toward the other, saying, “If I or any of my men interfere with your rights let me be cut in two like this heifer, she goat, and ram.”

(I have read that up to the present when two nations make a covenant the technical language speaks of their “cutting” a covenant.)

In our Mass reading Abraham made all the preparations, then he sat down, waiting, at his end of the ditch. As evening approached a sleep came over Abraham. (It was the same sleep that came over Adam when God removed his rib to form Eve.) Through the darkness Abraham saw God’s torch approaching from the far side of the ditch, touching the halves of the ram, goat, and heifer as it came.

This story assures us that God meets with every one of us on his or her level. He takes an easy,  straight-forward way of coming to terms even with mentally deranged people and with infants.

We enter through the narrow gate by building up habits to avoid trouble.


Tuesday, 6/25/13

Let’s consider Our Lord’s advice about entering through the narrow gate. He was basing this on the way old Jewish walled towns had one large swinging  gate through which all commerce had to pass. Through it travelers came and went, farmers pushed their carts, and women passed with loads of wares on their heads.

The gateway was constructed with an ornate shelter where the elders sat daily to settle the town’s legal matters. They were in control of opening the gate, but also of closing it tight when disease or bandits were threatening. It was bad luck for anyone who was caught outside when the gate was closed.

Some of those caught out knew of another option. On a rise around the back, hidden by bushes, there was a narrow gate guarded by an old-timer who would open only to townsfolk who had made themselves known to him. It was bothersome coming that way, climbing the hill, pushing the branches aside; but it was worth any amount of trouble to avoid being locked out for days when plague was on the land.

By telling us to strive to enter through the narrow gate Jesus was telling us to lead disciplined lives that guaranteed success in our studies, our work place, our family life. By habits of making extra efforts, rather than taking the easy way, we will be happy in the end.

I saw a case of that back in the summer of 1952. The Arkansas River that runs through Wichita Kansas flooded, bringing disaster on everyone. A priest friend of mine in St. Louis, anxious about his cousin who was married ten miles south of Wichita asked me to drive out there to check on his cousin and her family.

All the Catholics in her area were connected with fattening up cattle for the Cudahy Meat Packing Company in Witchita, and they were all ruined when in the midst of the disaster that company went out of business for good. Visiting from house to house we met with horrors of every kind.

I bring up this matter because of one thing that impressed me. Those Catholics who  had kept up the practice of driving into the city for Sunday Mass all seemed to be able to bear with the hardships, while with those who had slept in, stopping going to church, we came on suicides, wife desertions, crazy behavior of every kind.

The sure benefits from using the narrow gate only become evident when the crunch is on. 

The Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist is a holiday in Quebec.


Monday, 6/24/13

Today is the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist. This is a great day to be in Quebec where it is a holiday, and everyone visits around in their Sunday best; and in the evening a great crowd gathers for a tremendous bonfire on the Plains of Abraham.

Luke’s account of the great day focuses on Zechariah, the infant’s father. Nine months before he had had the great honor of being chosen by lot to enter the Holy Place  to burn incense before the Lord. The Angel Gabriel appeared to him there, telling him that he and his old wife Elizabeth were to be the parents of a son who would go before the Lord “in the spirit and the power of Elijah.”

As delighted as he was at the Angel’s words, Zechariah thought it practical to tell the angel that old people like him and his wife couldn’t go about having kids. For his showing a lack of belief, Gabriel struck the old man dumb, and Zechariah remained dumb through his wife’s pregnancy, and through Mary’s three month stay with them, and through the birth. He was dumb up to the day of the boy’s circumcision when relatives were about to name the child Zechariah after his father.

Now, Gabriel had told Zechariah that the child was to be called John, so when people at the circumcision wanted to name the child Zechariah, he asked for a tablet. And when he had written, “John is his name,” his mouth was opened. 

I like to imagine Zechariah's tenderness when holding his boy he said, “You child will be called the Prophet of the Most High.”

Monday, 6/24/13

Today is the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist. This is a great day to be in Quebec
where it is a holiday, and everyone visits around in their Sunday best; and in the evening a great crowd gathers for a tremendous bonfire on the Plains of Abraham.

Luke’s account of the great day focuses on Zechariah, the infant’s father. Nine months before he had the great honor of being chosen by lot to enter the Holy Place to burn incense before the Lord. The Angel Gabriel appeared to him there, telling him that he and his old wife Elizabeth were to be the parents of a son who would go before the Lord “in the spirit and the power of Elijah.”

As delighted as he was at the Angel’s words, Zechariah thought it practical to tell the angel that old people like him and his wife couldn’t go about having kids. For his showing a lack of belief, Gabriel struck the old man dumb, and Zechariah  remained dumb through his wife’s pregnancy, and through Mary’s three month stay with them, and through the birth. He was dumb up to the day of the boy’s circumcision when relatives were about to name the child Zechariah after his father.

Now, Gabriel had told Zechariah the child was to be called John, so when people at the circumcision wanted to name the child, Zechariah asked for a tablet. And when he had written, “John is his name,” his mouth was opened. 

I like to picture Zechariah's tenderness when holding his boy he said, “You child will be called the Prophet of the Most High.”

Christians in Galatia knew that women were created in God's image.


Sunday, 6/23/13

We might highlight St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians where he said, “For all of you who are baptized in Christ, there is neither male nor female.

I leaned on that line in a play I had for grade school kids maybe fifteen years ago. My play was about Ignatius of Antioch and Emperor Trajan. The play opened in the emperor’s court where a slave girl from Galatia was sitting alone, going over the emperor’s mail, and to herself she was singing, “Christians in Galatia taught me to write, but I was made a slave by thugs who turned my days to night.”

Basically, for us Christians there is neither male nor female, because before all else we are all persons made in God’s image. I have been boring people by harping too much on the thought that each of us mirror’s God in a unique way. I hope I am not wrong in this, but I consider God to be so many faceted that each of us has the potential of being like God in a way no one else is like him. Each of us, you and I, have the potential of being like him in a way no one else is.

What put me on to this line of thought was Vatican II’s document on Christian education. It stated that as teachers our task is to aid each child in his or her task of becoming a unique person.

Much of our way of putting women down comes from social structures that assign them to a lower place. Up until 1900 no women were admitted to Harvard or Yale, and even tough women thought it should had to be so, because women are the strong defenders of proprieties. From Korea fifty years ago I have strong memories of a tough woman who wanted men and women to stick to their proper roles.

Miss Pak was the English teacher in the Boys’ High School, and she was had so often been coming to me for English conversation practice that she thought it might be proper for her to become a Catholic. So she asked me, “Should I become a Catholic?” And when I answered, “That’s up to you” she got bossy with me, as she often did. She said, “You are the man. Don’t you even know that men make the decisions?”  

I was delighted yesterday with our newspaper’s account about Moira Rossi. She is an intellectually disabled young woman who won in her campaign to have the Florida Legislature pass a bill requiring that all state statutes do away with applying the term Retarded to people like herself. The Army urges us all to be the best we can be, and Moira’s strong religion has always had her striving to be the best she can be.

We cannot serve two masters.


Saturday, 6/22/13

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.” While one master he had in mind was God, the other master is usually taken to be wealth as personified by an ancient god called Mammon.

 But for those of us not enamored of wealth, there is another master drawing us away from serving God, and that other master is ourselves. We turn from the creator to the creature we call “me.”

In the battle against self-absorption our patron saint is John the Baptist, who, referring to Christ, said, “He must increase while I must decrease.”

In considering one’s self as rivaling God for calls on our efforts, there is no need for anyone to be severe in ignoring himself or herself. God is lenient with us: as the old saying goes, “He knows the clay we are made of.”

But should we not worry about our relationship with our heavenly master if over and over in the course of our days we go to the fridge or the couch or the TV or the phone instead of applying ourselves to what would be useful in God’s eyes?

Sadly, we have nothing to boast about.


Friday, 6/21/13

Paul does a rare thing in today’s reading: he boasts! He boasts about his ancestry, his fine schooling, his being chosen by God for his mission. His bout of boasting suggests that we might take a turn at boasting; but if we look at ourselves honestly, we find we really have nothing to boast about. St. Paul gave us the reason for that inability when in he said, “What do you possess that you have not received?” First Corinthians, 4:7.   

Taking that honest look at ourselves we find nothing there that was not given to us. Isn’t that true? Let’s list what is ours only because it was given to us. First, there were our genes. Secondly, the family we were born into. Third, our early rearing. Fourth, our position in the world. Let’s take them one at a time.

First, our genes have come to us from countless generations of ancestors who kept their bodies and minds healthy by developing working habits and by avoiding addictions that would have passed on weaknesses.

Second, as helpless creatures born into this world, we received our essential physical and spiritual nourishment from our families.

Third, through two decades when we couldn’t support ourselves, we were cared for by people who had us develop study and work habits that prepared us to be free.

Fourth, we had those who opened doors for us.

Do Europe's near-empty churches tell us that his kingdom has come and gone?


Thursday, 6/20/13

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” In the Middle Ages Europe was known as Christendom, and people felt that they their prayer had been answered, since all of Europe saw itself as God’s kingdom on earth.

Europe no longer sees itself as God’s kingdom, or as Christendom. Its church spires are still there, but the churches are near empty.

This year with Slovokia entering the European Union the officers of the Euro zone are objecting to Slovakia’s flag and coinage. The flag features two crosses that honor St. Cyril and St. Methodius, founders of their country, and their coins have twelve stars from Mary’s crown; and the European Union is objecting to those Christian symbols as forms of proselytizing.

Some Catholic leaders feel we should wage war on this blatant secularism, but waging war isn’t always the best way to change people’s minds. A better way of ending hostilities is to find common ground for which we can agree. So many people who have stopped going to church still insist that they are spiritual. That is common ground we can build on. Another bit of common ground where we could get a start is the realization that every one of those secularists is actually God’s beloved child. 

We should do good for the sole purpose of pleasing our heavenly Father.



Wednesday, 6/19/13

In the Gospel Jesus warns us against being show-offs. He says that whether we are helping the poor, or fasting, or praying, we should avoid doing those good things to be seen and praised.

I don’t know about you, but for me that warning of his brings to mind photos picturing someone handing over a big check to the bishop or a hospital. Such publicity has us wondering if those generous donors have ever read what Jesus says on this subject.

At first this reading has us thinking that making displays of our good acts is wrong because it makes us look like hypocrites. However, if you tend closely to what Jesus said you will see he had something else in mind.

He said showing off your good deeds was wrong because you “will have no recompense from your heavenly father,” but if you give in secret, then, “your Father who sees in secret will repay you,” or, “Your Father who sees what is secret will repay you.”

Jesus is telling us that nothing is of more value for us than to increase our intimacy with the Father. We should strive to deepen that intimacy by repeatedly doing everything we can to please no one but him,

Seventy years ago there was a popular song with the title “When You’re Away.” It has this lyric, “When you’re away dear there’s not that I strive to do, save to endear me more fondly my love to you.” There is nothing we should strive for more earnestly than increasing our intimacy with God. 

We should not let ourselves be outdone in friendliness by non-Christians.



Tuesday, 6/18/13

The readings today tell us that we must live up to all that is expected of us. In the first reading Paul spoke to Christians in Greece about the generosity of their neighbors to the north in Macedonia. He tells the Corinthians that considering all the benefits they have received from the Church, they should not let themselves be seen as an ungrateful group.

Then, in the Gospel Paul held the tax collectors and the pagans up as classes of people which Christians should outdo. The tax collectors loved each other, giving each other breaks, and letting their comrades get away with slips; so should not Christians be as indulgent towards the failings of others. After all, we are followers of God who favors all men and women as his children.

Then, pagans have plenty of smiles for their own sort; so doesn’t Our Lord’s “Good Samaritan” parable oblige us to treat all people as our good neighbors, deserving of friendly greetings?  

God never said, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."


Monday, 6/17/13

Our Lord quotes Exodus, 21:24 where it says, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” If you read through that Chapter 21 of Exodus you will be convinced that God was not behind that rule of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I say God could not have been behind that chapter because it is full of heartless regulations.

Verse seven says, “When a man sells his daughter as a slave she shall not go free as male slaves do. But if her master, who had destined her for himself, dislikes her, he shall let her be redeemed.”  

Verses twenty-one and twenty-two of Chapter 21 states, “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survived for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.”

It is likely that these regulations were ones from primitive tribal law, and the arrangers of the Bible simply incorporated them in their text.

What kind of good acts win heaven for us?



Sunday, 6/16/13

The readings today are about how people become persons good enough to be saved. The Pharisee in the Gospel seemed to think one became a good person by avoiding eating pork and shrimp, and by not playing softball on Saturdays.

For King David and the sinful woman in the Gospel the way to goodness was in turning heart and soul to God.

But being a good person, like loving, is a many splendored thing. I have a priest friend with many people come to him for spiritual guidance because they want to be more saintly. I’m no good at that. I prefer what St. James said about being religious. It consists in helping widows and orphans in their need, and by keeping oneself unstained by the world.

I often hear people say that Vatican II didn’t change any of our beliefs, but it seems to me that it did. Back in 1950 in our seminary theology course we did the Grace Tract, and it distinguished between being naturally good and being supernaturally good. We were taught that un-baptized people could perform naturally good acts, but those good acts couldn’t earn a supernatural reward in heaven.

 I told my Dad that at Christmas time, but he said, “I don’t believe that. You and I know good generous men who haven’t been baptized, and are you saying heaven isn’t for them, it’s only for biddies mumbling away in church? I don’t believe that.”

In 1946  French Jesuit, Henri de Lubac, wrote a book on supernatural life. In it he agreed with my dad, but the Church, banned the book. However, Pope John XXIII invited Father Lubac to be a consulter at Vatican II, and in the Constitution on the Church the council came around to agreeing with him. It wrote

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it . . . may achieve eternal salvation.

It takes deep prayer on our part for us to understand Paul's deep sayings.


Saturday, 6/16/13

Our first reading is from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians and there is much there that we cannot well understand. A key element in Paul’s life was that following on his conversion he spent fourteen years meditating deeply on what Christ meant to him and what Christ means to us.  The many wonderful things he says in his Letters are the product of that long period of deep prayer.

It is only by quietly praying over the thoughts he put into writing that we can hope to understand them. Let me just list some of the deep thoughts he gave us in today’s reading.

He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 

We regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now e regard him so no longer.

(He seems to be saying there that those who knew Jesus when he was alive should abandon those memories, coming instead to associate only with Christ in heaven. Or, am I wrong there?)

 We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.

For our sake he made himself to be sin who did not know sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

In my view Vatican II was the finest thing to hit the Church since the time of Christ. How wrong am I in that?


Friday, 6/14/13

For five years now I have been posting one of my little homilies every day, and at times people have e-mailed to say that they have either agreed or disagreed with what I wrote. Those who agree have made constructive comments, bringing us into a long-range relationship. Those who disagree are people who feel that Vatican II was bad for the Church, and they see me as being a product of that Council. Pardon me for using this space today to say a few words in praise of Vatican II.

Cardinal Giovanni Roncalli had spent twenty-five years as the voice of the Vatican in far off countries. In his private journal for that quarter of a century he was always bemoaning the fact that Rome would never listen to what God was saying in the hearts of people around the globe. His Roman Catholic Church seemed to be ninety percent Roman, and only ten percent Catholic. Still, he thought it to be his duty to repeat what the Roman Curia told him to say, keeping his own thoughts to himself. When his quiet ways got him elected pope, his sense of duty went into reverse. He felt that God was obliging him to hand the mike over to holy souls from everywhere.

Twenty-five hundred bishops from every country were given seats inside of St. Peters. They met there for three months in 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965. It was the biggest meeting the world has ever known. At first, with bishops expressing a wild scattering of opinions, it was confusion. But with good hearts they learned to listen to each other, and together they brought the Church into something like what it would be if Christ were in its midst.

As a boy trained in a very traditional seminary, I found the changes hard to take. We had class lectures and exams in Latin, and we were bound by laws of silence twenty-one hours a day. By and by though, I have come to see Vatican II as the finest thing to hit the Church since the time of Christ.

By facing God in prayer we are transformed into his image.



Thursday, 6/13/13

Yesterday I commented on a verse in today’s reading from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. Please let me return to it. Paul had been speaking of how when Moses had spent time conversing with God on Mount Sinai his face was radiant from that confrontation. Apropos of that, Paul wrote, “All of us, gazing with unveiled faces on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.”

The meaning of that is clear enough: our facing God in periods of prayer has the effect of transforming us, making us God-like. 

If you don’t mind, I would like to combine that truth with another line of thought I often come up with.

Twenty-three years ago a sixth grade girl raised her hand, asking, “If we are all made in God’s image, how come some of us are left handed? I re-phrased her question to read: “If we are all made in God’s image, how can we be different from one another?

Even that way, the question stumped me. After a bit, I came up with an answer of sorts. It’s this: I Picture God as similar to a many facetted diamond, with each of us conceived with the potential of mirroring a different facet of God.

Each of us by self-discipline, by studying, by acts of kindness; but most of all, by confronting God in prayer, can be transformed from glory to glory into our assigned facet of his image.

As we give more and more time to God, we become more and more like him.



6/12/13

The first reading refers to an incident in Chapter Thirty-four of the Book of Exodus. One time when Moses came down from Mont Sinai, the people ran away from him. They were frightened because his face had taken on a radiance from his conferring face-to-face with God. 

Paul recalled that incident because it exemplified what happens to our souls when we spend time in intimate prayer with God. In tomorrow’s first reading Paul tells us, “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.”

In saying we are transformed “from glory to glory” Paul was saying that there is progress in holiness We become like God by gazing at him, and we become more like him with every one of our confrontations with him. 

You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.


6/11/13

In Today’s Gospel Jesus told his disciples that they had to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. That makes it timely for us to ask just who those disciples might be. Are they our ordained priests? Are they our professed nuns?

Yes, ordained priests and professed nuns are his disciples, but there are others as well. Our Lord’s final words to his eleven Apostles was, “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son, and the holy Spirit.”

In looking for baptized followers, Jesus had no mind for enrolling people as ordinary Christians. He had no room for such a category. The only way you can be his follower, is for you to assume the role of an active disciple.

You must be the salt of the earth, enriching an apathetic world with an active, joyful, salty, commitment to what is right.

You must be the light of the world, glowing with the light of Christ’s truth the way the moon constantly reflects the light of the sun. 

The Sermon on the Mount is an update on the Law of Sinai.


6/10/13

In our Gospel readings from today until the end of June, we will be following Christianity’s showcase, the wonderful “Sermon On the Mount.” It is three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, and its key verse will come on Wednesday when we hear Jesus say, “I came not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.”

The Pharisees, who had amassed a library of sticky little rules which they falsely attributed to Moses, were saying that Jesus could not be the Messiah, since he didn’t  wash his hands fifty times a day, and he didn’t step aside to avoid the shadow of a non-Jewish person falling on him. In this great sermon, Jesus will take up one precept at a time, showing that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

In today’s Gospel, Matthew presented Jesus as God’s Son, promulgating a marvelous update of that Law which the Father gave the world.

Here too, the Son speaks from a mountaintop as the Father had done from Mount Sinai. Then, as when the Father was issuing the Ten Commandments, he called the leaders up to him while the people waited below; here, Jesus called only the Apostles up with him. 

Demonstrating Our Lord’s majesty, Matthew tells us that he alone sat down., and Matthew wrote
that Jesus, “opening his mouth” began speaking. Our English translations leave out that bit about opening his mouth; but perhaps Matthew wanted to portray the people’s excited feeling of anticipation, as though they were whispering, “Oh, look, he is opening his mouth!”

Then, whereas the Father began the Old Law by pronouncing Ten Commandments, here the Son inaugurates the New Law with his own one-liners, the Beatitudes.

The Sermon on the Mount is an update on the Law the Father gave on Mojnt Sinai.


6/10/13

In our Gospel readings from today until the end of June, we will be following Christianity’s showcase, the wonderful “Sermon On the Mount.” It is three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, and its key verse will come on Wednesday when we hear Jesus say, “I came not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.”

The Pharisees, who had amassed a library of sticky little rules which they falsely attributed to Moses, were saying that Jesus could not be the Messiah, since he didn’t  wash his hands fifty times a day, and he didn’t step aside to avoid the shadow of a non-Jewish person falling on him. In this great sermon, Jesus will take up one precept at a time, showing that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

In today’s Gospel, Matthew presented Jesus as God’s Son, promulgating a marvelous update of that Law which the Father gave the world.

Here too, the Son speaks from a mountaintop as the Father had done from Mount Sinai. Then, as when the Father was issuing the Ten Commandments, he called the leaders up to him while the people waited below; here, Jesus called only the Apostles up with him. 

Demonstrating Our Lord’s majesty, Matthew tells us that he alone sat down., and he
that Jesus, “opening his mouth” began speaking. Our English translations leave out that bit about opening his mouth; but perhaps Matthew wanted to portray the people’s excited feeling of anticipation, as though they were thinking, “Oh, look, he is opening his mouth!”

Then, whereas the Father began the Old Law by pronouncing Ten Commandments, here the Son inaugurates the New Law with his own one-liners, the Beatitudes.

The Sermon on the Mount is an update on the Law the Father handed down on Mount Sinai.


6/10/13

In our Gospel readings from today until the end of June, we will be following Christianity’s showcase, the wonderful “Sermon On the Mount.” It is three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, and its key verse will come on Wednesday when we hear Jesus say, “I came not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.”

The Pharisees, who had amassed a library of sticky little rules which they falsely attributed to Moses, were saying that Jesus could not be the Messiah, since he didn’t  wash his hands fifty times a day, and he didn’t step aside to avoid the shadow of a non-Jewish person falling on him. In this great sermon, Jesus will take up one precept at a time, showing that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

In today’s Gospel, Matthew presented Jesus as God’s Son, promulgating a marvelous update of that Law which the Father gave the world.

Here too, the Son speaks from a mountaintop as the Father had done from Mount Sinai. Then, as when the Father was issuing the Ten Commandments, he called the leaders up to him while the people waited below; here, Jesus called only the Apostles up with him. 

Demonstrating Our Lord’s majesty, Matthew tells us that he alone sat down., and he
that Jesus, “opening his mouth” began speaking. Our English translations leave out that bit about opening his mouth; but perhaps Matthew wanted to portray the people’s excited feeling of anticipation, as though they were thinking, “Oh, look, he is opening his mouth!”

Then, whereas the Father began the Old Law by pronouncing Ten Commandments, here the Son inaugurates the New Law with his own one-liners, the Beatitudes.