Therese of Lisieux imagined herself to be the child Jesus's little rubber ball that he could hold to his cheek or abandon in a corner.



Wednesday, 10/1/14

Today we honor St. Therese of Lisieux born in Normandy in 1873. That was a time when France could boast of few middle-of-the road Catholics. While Enlightenment figures like Voltaire and Rousseau turned many Catholics into free-thinkers, devout Catholics reacted by becoming very devout.

Therese’s parents, Louis and Zelllie were of that sort. Both failed in their attempts to   enter Religious orders. They came together then, resolved to live as brother and sister; but on orders from the local priest they had nine children; losing three little boys and a girls to an intestinal disorder, with Therese and her four older sisters surviving.

After being let out to a wet nurse for a year and a half, Therese became abnormally attached to her mother. Coming down the stairs, she would call to her mother from each stair, refusing to budge before her mother called back. Therese was four when her mothers died, and she cried for her until she was nine when she felt she saw their statue of Our Lady of Victories smiling at her.

Overcome by the sins of which she felt guilty, Therese longed for her first confession when she felt that through the priests she would speak directly to Jesus. With that in mind, when the priest slid open the grating on her side of the confessional she stunned him by confiding, “I love you!”

Her father had catered to his youngest daughter’s frail health. Like, he always put a present in her shoe at the mantel on Christmas Eve; but when she had turned thirteen Therese overheard Louis asking her next oldest sister Celine when Therese was going to grow up. Stunned for a moment, she suddenly found the strength to afterwards face the world as an adult.

Her second oldest sister, Paulina, who had been a mother to Therese, entered the severe Carmelite convent in Lisieux, then a year later her oldest sister Marie entered; and Therese began experiencing a strong desire to follow them.

 When Therese was fourteen in 1888 she and Celina, the sister next to her accompanied their father on a month-long pilgrimage to Rome. At Leo XIII’s public audience Therese ran up; and she clung to his feet, begging to be allowed to immediately enter Carmel. On that pilgrimage the French people of noble blood were always give superior accommodations, and Therese was surprised at seeing they were not superior people. She was even more surprised at seeing that some of the priests on the pilgrimage were also quite ordinary people.

Permitted to enter Carmel at fifteen, Therese was a happy postulant and novice, and after profession, she served as novice mistress. In that role she excelled in leading her young ladies to love Jesus even more when things were going wrong. She asked each to think of herself as a little rubber ball, much loved by Jesus, but at times seemingly forgotten and left in a corner.  

After her age twenty Therese’s health increasingly gave way to tuberculosis which took her to heaven when she was twenty-four.

St. Jerome hadn't believed that Rome could ever fall. Could the U.S. fall?


Tuesday, 9/30/14

Jerome was a clever boy of pagan parents, born in what today is Bosnia. As a teen ager he followed his intellectual interests to Rome where he found himself attracted to the Scriptures and to the monastic life. His critics claimed that he became a Christian only because it was a requisite for entering a monastery.

The quiet of the monastery could not hide his exceptional brilliance. It brought him to the attention of Pope Damasus who called Jerome in to help him in managing the papacy. In that capacity Jerome made so many enemies for himself that when Pope Damasus died in 384 a thirty seven year old Jerome felt it best to leave Rome for good.  In the East he launched himself into rendering the scattered Bible scrolls into beautiful, precise Latin.

Although there were numerous chapters in Jerome’s story, my attention today is caught by his reaction in 410 to the word that the Visigoths under Alaric had destroyed Rome. In disbelief, Jerome wrote:

“When the bright light of the world was put out, or rather when the Roman Empire was decapitated, the whole world perished in one city.

“Everything, however long, has its end; the centuries that have passed never return, and it’s true to say that all that begins must perish.   


I don’t know about you, but Jerome’s words make me fearful for the U.S.A.  We have been as great as Rome, but our golfers cannot win the Ryder Cup, and no Americans reached the quarterfinals in U.S. Open Tennis Tournament.

We are great at entertaining and feeding ourselves, but we are importing far more than we are exporting. We watch old war movies, wishing we still had the spunk that made our boys winners.




Monday, 9/29/14

Today we honor the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, but we are not sure just whom we are honoring. We only know that we are glimpsing God’s mysterious, wonderful beings. We like that line from Shakespeare where Hamlet tells Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy.”

With Archangel Michael we are in the presence of one whom Scripture describes as being the leader of God’s army.

The Archangel Raphael, whose name means “The healing of God,” came to us in the Book of Tobit where he reveals himself announcing, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.”

There is no scene in Scripture with which we are more familiar than the one introducing the third of the Archangels we honor today. “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, and the virgin’s name was Mary.” 

If we have major differences with others in our hearts we must give them credit for doing what seems right to them.


Sunday, 9/28/14

The first reading and the Gospel both seem to have been directed at the Jews. They were indeed God’s chosen people. But although that was something of which they could be justly proud; they had to realize that high honors are necessarily accompanied by high responsibilities; and in not accepting the Messiah when he came they failed in their prime duty, and lost their right to think of themselves as God's chosen ones.

The Second Reading is directed at people like us. Specifically, it was directed at people in Philippi who like us were having differences with one another. Some unnamed major disagreement had arisen among them, and their differences were presenting them to the world as falling short of being God’s own people. Just as the Jews lost out on being God's Chosen People when they failed to accept his Messiah, so can we no longer be his people if we do not manage to give up our dislikes. As Jesus said, "In this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one an other

When children go bad their parents feel worse about it than they do. So, Paul, the loving parent of the Christians in Philippi, pleads with them to bury the hatchet. He said, “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united on heart, thinking one thing.”

I suppose each of us had has had one disagreement that kept us awake. Years ago a priest I thought of as a friend listed all my faults in a letter to the bishop, and for weeks I kept waking up, pounding my pillow over my hurt feelings. But by praying about it I was brought to see that this friend thought he was doing the right thing in pointing out my faults.   

If we want to remain Christians we must come to give our opponents the benefit of the doubt. We must accept the fact that they are doing what seems right to them. The First Century handbook for Christians told us that we should not receive Holy Communion before we have become reconciled in our hearts with those with whom we have differences.

From centuries when all of our saints were of noble blood, Vincent struggled up from peasant poverty.


Saturday, 9/17/14

In centuries during which only the nobility had the means to provide their children with educations and with respectable careers, Vincent’s breakthrough from a peasant upbringing was exceptional. Born in 1581 as one of seven children of peasant farmers, Vincent learned the basic Humanities from Franciscans who were open to the poor. Then, while holding a tutor’s position in Toulouse, he learned enough Theology to obtain ordination to the priesthood from a kindly bishop.

In sailing to Marseille in search of some financial standing, his ship was captured by  north African slavers who sold Vincent to a business man. Two years into that enslavement, Vincent converted his master, who then deposited him penniless on the southern coast of France. Vincent, on hearing that Rome still kept a papal delegate in Avignon, walked to Avignon where he managed to find a place in the archbishop’s household.

He took a chance of accompanying that prelate to Rome. Then, after some idle months in 1609 Vincent worked his way into the entourage of Rome’s delegation to King Henry IV of France. Again left loose, this time in Paris, Vincent took to knocking on doors looking for patronage, and his persistence brought him to the attention of  Pierre de Berulle, a truly fine holy man.

Berulle found for Vincent a permanent position as chaplain to the wife of the leader of the Gondi’s, who were the richest, most powerful family in France. Vincent’s security there freed him to become the kind of priest he had always wanted to be.

His own struggle from peasant poverty gave him an understanding of the struggling existence of the peasants on the Gondi estates. He took to organizing idle priests for giving missions to the poor, and this brought about the founding of the Vincentian Fathers.

His two years of African enslavement came back to him on finding that the Gondi family was in charge of all the galleys in France’s merchant fleets. Being so well placed with the Gondi’s, he was able to secure rest and care facilities fro the galley slaves.

In caring for the terminally ill noble Lord de Marillac he made such a strong spiritual impression on the man’s wife Louise that it resulted in her founding the Daughters of Charity.

The world is blessed with many St. Vincent hospitals. They are the results of Vincent struggling up from the peasantry and of Louise’s stepping down from the nobility.

The Bible tells you to act your age.



Friday, 9/26/14

In saying, “There is a time for everything,” the Bible is telling you to act your age. In creating our natures, God programmed them to develop by stages.

First of all, children must be allowed to play, to learn their world, and to work out their own right way of managing their world.

King Edward VI of England was a sad exception to this, from the time he was weaned, he was dressed like an adult. He was called on to settle matters of state. He died at fifteen after childishly putting his half sister Mary aside in favor of his cousin Jane. A parliament that resented this immature whim, made Lady Jane pay for it with her head.

 We are indebted to the Swedish mountain climber Erik Erikson for his fine insights into normal teenage development. His thesis pointed out that with twelve-year-olds their hormones drive them away from their parents. Nature then programs them through a six year  “moratorium.” It has them patching together what will be their adult personality. They face heart aches if that inchoate teen-age-personality has saddled them with the wrong mates and with detestable tattoos.

With the movies always asking us to identify with men and women under thirty-five, it can happen that as we go past forty, we strain to keep looking like those role models.

I found a much different emphasis when I settled into Korean village life sixty years ago. I found that young married ladies worked day and night to keep their mother-in-laws from punishing them. Each bride yearned for the day when her oldest son would marry, giving her a daughter-in-law to push around. Then, those forty-year-old ladies would take to wearing long dresses on a round of singing and dancing at choice picnic spots.

There is no contentment like what comes when we can act our age. 

After our time on earth passes we wil receive Light from the Life of the world.


Thursday, 9/25/14

Today we have the first of three days of readings from Ecclesiastes, the Bible’s most somber writer. The writer saw our time on earth as passing quickly, and not long remembered.

We can’t  deny what he said. Ecclesiastes was not just being pessimistic. He was  asking us to face the facts. I read years ago that it is a maxim of psychology that we cannot picture ourselves as not existing. We can only picture what we have experienced, and we have never experienced anything but being here.

Always at the end of Mass in the old days the priest would read aloud the first chapter of John’s Gospel. It was called the Last Gospel, and it started like this.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing  came to be. What came to be through him was life, and the life  was the light of the human race.

Since that Chapter seems to contains all the main things we believe in, I have taken to meditating on it every evening. I divide it into fifteen statements of our beliefs, then I use each of them as the mystery for one decade of the Rosary. Like, I recite ten Hail Marys while meditating on “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The way I do it every evening, for my fourth Mystery I meditate on the words, “In him was life, and the life was the light of the human race.”

Now, in meditating on the Gospel one makes attempts at getting a grasp on what the verse means for us. After  puzzling over this verse night after night I have come to think that it is saying God has complete, unending life of his own; and the light he gives to us amounts to the fragile intellectual life we enjoy when we are awake. We have light only when we can plug into him. If we live good lives here below we will later be permanently plugged in. 

Maybe my thoughts are all wrong, but having them is better than watching TV.

Poverty is not a lady fair. Poverty is a dirty business.


Wednesday, 24/14

On sending out his disciples, Jesus told them to take no supplies for their journey.  If we think he was telling them to practice the virtue of poverty we might be mistaken. Because he followed up those words by telling them to stay with people, and to eat what was put before them.

He didn’t want them to stay at Holiday Inns from which could saunter out for controlled meeting with ordinary people. No, he wanted them to stay with ordinary people, getting to be one of them.

The fact that the Bible was not keen on poverty as such was made clear in the first reading which tells us, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me with only the food I need; lest being full I deny you, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or being in want, I steal. “

I was amused by Bernard Malamud’s story “The Assistant.” The Assistant was a drifter who visited the same lunch counter every morning, dragging one cup of coffee out for an hour, all the while telling the guy behind the counter that he, the Assistant, was modeling his life on that of St. Francis Assisi. He was explaining how poverty had become his lady fair.

The counter guy didn’t much mind, because he was spending the time with his spread sheet, working out his afternoon bets. Eventually, however, he had too much of it, so putting down his spreadsheet, he leveled with the Assistant, telling him, “Listen buddy, poverty aint no beautiful lady. Poverty is a dirty business.”

That’s true. Poverty is a dirty business.

In place of those Proverbs, let's look at key sentences from the Constitutions of Vatican II.



Tuesday, 9/23/14

The proverbs in the First Reading are clever and thought provoking, and there was a time when good women stitched such proverbs into samplers they hung on our walls, but we don’t see much of that anymore.

I have found that instead of the old proverbs, it is the  statements in the documents of Vatican II that are more frequently on my lips. The Council published sixteen documents, but they classified the ones on Liturgy, on the Church itself, on Divine Revelation, and on the Church in the Modern World as Constitutions. In place of Proverbs, let me quote a key sentence from each of those.

A key sentence in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states, “He is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes.”

A key sentence in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church states, “The Church subsists in the Catholic Church . . . Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible limits.”

A key sentence in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation states, “In determining the intention of the sacred writers attention must be paid to literary forms, for the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writings, in prophetic and poetical texts.”  

The opening sentence in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World states, “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts.”  

God has endowed us with the families, friends and faith that makes the light of God's world, and he wants us let to let our privileges shine on those still in darkness.


Monday, 9/22/14

Without being accused of pride, we middle class American Catholics can lay claim to being the light of God’s world, and it would be sinful for us to hide our light under a basket.

Look at what we have received: good education, healthy food, the example of wise loving teachers and older family members, a grounding in the Sermon on the Mount, and the love of Mary endowed on us from the cross.

As I say, without being guilty of pride, we can call ourselves the light of the world. And, we must ask, “Did God make us his light so that he could hide us under a basket?” No, he wants us to use our gifts to bring light and happiness to those of his children who need it most.

God is constantly prompting us to do good constructive things.


Sunday, 9/21/14

If you don’t mind, I would like to stay with that first reading from Chapter 55 of Isaiah. I will even expand on it, looking at the following verses that are not included in our reading from the Lectionary.

God told us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Isaiah, in the following passage, revealed to us that God is constantly prompting our hearts to do good constructive things. Those promptings are what the catechism used to call Actual Graces. To give us an idea of how insistent God is with his promptings, Isaiah compared their frequency to the abundance of the raindrops God showers on his earth. He made this point with lines of poetic beauty:

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows, and bread to him who eats,

So shall my word be that goes forth from, my mouth. It shall mot return to me void, but shall do m y will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”  

God does not speak to us in words we can quote as having come from him, but he is constantly urging us to do kind, helpful deeds. He is prompting us to avoid lazy and self-centered behavior.
  
To the degree that we obey his promptings we will live happy lives, to the degree we ignore them we will be unhappy. But, we cannot frustrate God’s good will toward his creatures. If you and I ignore his promptings, it will be our loss; but he will find others to carry out his sweet designs for mankind. 

The parables about seeds suggest that we look at seeds themselves as God's ingenuous creations.


Saturday, 9/20/14

In the first reading today Paul asked us to picture a simple little seed that once planted would be transformed into a bush so large that birds could nest in its branches. In the Gospel Jesus too asks us to picture a seed or a handful of seeds. In Our Lord’s parable the seeds represented God’s initial gift of Faith. It too, if well received and nourished, can be transformed into something large.

Rather than following up how Paul and Jesus used seeds as metaphors for earthy bodies or for the gift of Faith, lets just look at the seeds themselves as little miracles that witness to the wisdom of the creator.

Google tells us that each seed has its own DNA, and each DNA molecule is made up of intertwined atoms of Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon, and Phosphorus. Google tells us there are over 200 billion of these atoms in each DNA molecule. Isn’t that enough to keep us busy contemplating the wisdom of God that put all that together? 

Christ promised that he would rise from the dead, and that we would rise. His keeping that first promise guarantees he will keep the second one.


Friday, 9/19/14

We can think of St. Luke as a ladies man. He is the only one who gives us the story of Mary’s visit from Gabriel, and of Mary’s visit with Elizabeth. In today’s reading he mentions another Mary, along with Joanna and Susanna, as being among the many women who traveled with the Apostles, providing for them from their own means.

Turning to Paul’s remarks, we must note that he had an advantage over us in  speaking about Christ. Christ had appeared to him, and had made himself felt as a continuous presence in Paul’s life. In today’s reading Paul used that familiarity to back up, his point that there is really life after death.

Even among so-called believers Paul was encountering people who couldn’t believe there could be life after death. Paul reminded them that Jesus made two promises. He promised that he would rise, and that we would rise.

If Christ had not kept that first promise there would be no reason to believe he would keep the second promise; but since he has risen and has been seen by many, there is no reason to doubt he will keep his second promise. He will see to it that we will all find happiness beyond the grave. 

The Gospel is the good news that Jesus passed through death to life, and that if we cling to him, he will pull us through too.


Thursday, 9/18/14

St. Paul, in writing to the Christians at Corinth, reminded them of the Gospel he preached to them.

Our English word gospel is a contraction of two early English words gode and spell, with gode being an earlier spelling of good, and spell having been our twelfth century word for news. That is how we translate Paul’s word euaggelon, which meant “happy news.”

When we hear the word gospel we think of the four gospels: of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; but it is better for us to return the word to its original meaning. For the people of Corinth before Paul came there was no escaping death. They saw death as the complete cessation of life and of everything dear to them.

He could have given them nothing more joyous than the assurance that the man Jesus arose from the dead after three days, after promising us that if we believed in  him and loved one another, he could bring us back from death to unending happiness.

That, and that alone, is the gospel, the good news. The accounts from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are just filler, explaining and backing up the good news: namely, that Jesus passed through death to life, and if we hang on to him he will pull us through too.

"Love thy neighbor as thyself" might mean "Love thy neighbor as though you were him or her."



Wednesday, 9/17/14

Paul’s beautiful hymn to love puts me in mind of some thoughts about Christian love that came to me many years ago.

In my parish in Korea I was preparing for a Sunday homily on the subject of, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It occured tom me that I had always taken that to mean I had to love my neighbor as much as I loved myself. But, what if God were really telling me to love my neighbor as though he or she were myself? That would be a command to practice empathy.

The following Sunday I had two morning Masses with confessions in between. That was back when you could not even have a drink of water after midnight if you were going to Communion or offering Mass. 

After that second Mass I stood out talking to people, wishing they would leave so I could have breakfast. But things brightened up with two pretty girls stopping to chat with me.  I was laughing with them when an old lady leaning on a stick came tugging at the right sleeve of my alb. She said, “Father, look at my bad eye.”

A quick look was enough. The eye looked like a badly fried egg. I was turning away when I remembered the Lord wanting me to love my neighbor as though she were myself.

Turning back to her, I found myself sharing her memory of how beautiful her eyes had once been. Then, I became aware of how the kids racing around us were coming close to that stick we were leaning against to stay upright.

As I was telling the kids to play someplace else I got to thinking that I hadn’t a cent to help the lady with doctor bills. Pushing that thought aside was the sudden remembrance that it had rained through the night, and the path over the hill from the lady’s house must have turned into a muddy stream.

I told the lady, “You are a hero for making it to Mass over that slippery path.”

Lifting her good eye to me, she said, “Oh, Father understands.”

As members of Christ's Body we must work together for God's causes.


Tuesday, 9/16/14

Paul likened an ideal church community to a human body in which, without envy or discord, the fingers, lungs, ears and innards coordinate smoothly in all the body’s healthy activities.

Like, now, in composing this homily I put my body at ease in a swivel chair, while my fingers hunt and peck over the keyboard, putting down the sentences my memory and imagination put together for them. So, Paul said, our teachers, healers, leaders and students should be working together as part of Christ’s body working for the good of mankind.

We can go wrong in either of thinking of ourselves just as individuals or in thinking of ourselves only as parts of a group. During the nineteen fifties and sixties when I lived in a Korean town I was struck by the way people seldom used the first person singular pronoun.

Kids would say things like: “Our dad wouldn’t believe that,” or “We don’t like Japanese cooking, “ or “Our family has a lawyer.” I couldn’t get any individual to speak for himself or herself. The whole family could share the happiness of having one beautiful girl or one clever boy.

By contrast, America is the most going-it-alone country there ever was. Everyone has to make a name for himself or herself. If they lacked an individual claim to fame they would need to create one by dying their hair or emblazing a tattoo.

We need more group awareness.

The Church has at times gone too far in claiming to do all the thinking for us. That was the case in an encyclical of Pope Pius X when he wrote.

     The Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, it is a society  comprising two categories of persons, the Pastors and the flock. . . so distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body alone            rests the necessary right and authority of promoting the end of the society, directing all its members toward that end; the only duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and like a docile flock, to follow the pastors.

I humbly disagree. We will need to come individually before God’s judgment seat, and Pope Pius X will not be with us to share the credit or blame.


Mary, who was at the Last Supper, won't mind our talking about what happened there.



Monday, 9/15/14

Today the Church asks us to speak with Mary about the sorrows she endured, and we will do that; but in reading slowly through Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we come today to a key passage, one to which we must give thought. Although Paul never met him during Our Lord’s lifetime, he here boldly asserts that Jesus came to him with an account of what happened at the last Supper. Paul here wrote, “I received from the Lord what handed on to you.”

(Since Mary was there at the Last Supper, I’m sure she doesn’t mind our talking about it.)

This is one of those cases in which our English translation does not accurately translate what Paul wrote.

Paul wrote that Jesus took up the bread and eucharistesas. Our version of First Corinthians translates that key Greek word as “after he gave thanks.”

Luke’s very similar account of the Last Supper also uses that word eucharistesas, but our English version there translates it as “said he blessing.”

Both free translations ignore two real meanings for the word eucharistesas.

First, they ignore the literal meaning of eucharistesas, which is “pleasing gift.”

Secondly, they ignore the way eucharistesas can be telling us that Jesus had come to the vital third part of the table blessing.

The table blessing the host pronounced at major Jewish meals had three parts. First, the host asked the guests to recall God’s favors. Next, he asked them to join him in asking down God’s presence among them. Thirdly, at the part called the eucharis, he asked them to join him as part of a pleasing gift to God.

We all know that at the Last Supper Jesus gave his body to us under the form of bread. But, we take no note of just when it was in the Last Supper that he did that. Perhaps, it was when he was making a gift of himself to the Father that he gave his body to us. The idea being that he wanted us to be, not only mentally, but physically  part of the same pleasing gift as himself.

For us, Jsus on his cross will open a way through to the Promised Land.


Sunday, 9/14/14

Our Church calls this day the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Now, with the word “exaltation” describing a “lifting up,” I suppose the Church is inviting us to let our thoughts dwell upon two different ways in which Our Lord was lifted up on his cross.

First, from the accounts of crucifixions by the Romans, we must think of Jesus being nailed to the cross as it lay flat on the ground. Then, with Jesus dangling from it, the upright was raised, and with a “Thud!” it was dropped into the hole dug for it.

But what the Church more likely celebrates on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross takes the word “exaltation” as a supreme triumph. That is how it is pictured in the Second Reading where “Every knee should bend of those in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth.”  

 Going to the Old Testament, the readings compare Jesus being lifted on high to Moses curing all by raising up the seraph serpent in the desert.  

But for me ark of the covenant in Chapter Three of the Book of Joshua comes closer than the seraph serpent in picturing what Jesus on the cross does for us.

Let me refresh your minds on that story. The Israelites, after forty years of wandering in the desert, came at last to the spot from which they would cross over into the Promised Land. Echoing the Red Sea crossing, all thousands of them were ordered to wade into the Jordan at the time of its spring floods.

Joshua assured them that the ark of the covenant would open a way for them. He had priests carrying the ark precede them into the flood, and marvelously, the waters backed up, allowing them passage. Then, when the priests with the ark reached the bottom of the riverbed, they took a stand there, allowing the whole nation to pass by and up into the Promised Land.

If we check with verse 22 of Chapter 25 of Exodus we will see what gave the ark its supernatural power. That chapter described all the materials and all the dimensions of the ark. It was to be topped by a gold plate called the “propitiatory” upon which were to be fixed forms of two cherubim facing each other. Then in verse 22 God spoke, saying, “There I will meet you from above the propitiatory between the two cherubim.”  

The ark, somewhat like our tabernacle, was holy because God dwelt there. In that great scene in Joshua Chapter Three it was the priests carrying God as they took their stand at the bottom of the Jordan that opened a way into the Promised Land for the Israelites. For us it will be Jesus on the cross, taking his stand midway though our deaths, that will  open a passage for us up into heaven. 

We though many are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.


Saturday, 9/13/14

Paul speaks of how all of us are drawn together by our all receiving the same Christ as Holy Communion.

I don’t think one could give a magnetic charge to a loaf of bread, but to grasp the point Paul makes here, let’s pretend that a loaf of bread could be magnetized. Next, imagine that the priest pulling a switch de-magnetizes the loaf: after which, he breaks the loaf into many bite-sized pieces which he has us consume like Holy Communion.

Next, imagine him pulling the switch back on again, returning the charge to all the scattered bits of bread, so that they are magnetically drawn to reassemble themselves as the loaf.

That is one way of picturing what Paul meant when he said:

“The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?  Because the loaf of bead is one, we though many, are one Body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”

The same Christ whom we have all received into our hearts, wanting to reassemble himself as the loaf, pulls our hears together. 

We must run so as to win our race.


Friday, 9/12/14

St. Paul said, “I have become all things to all men,” and I take objection to that. It was right enough for Paul, but not for me, and probably not for you. Neither of us is the be-all and the end-all of creation. There are millions of others who can run faster then us, sing better than us, charm better than us, think more clearly than us. So, it isn’t practical for us to apply to ourselves what Paul said about becoming all things to all. 

However, we must apply to ourselves what Paul went on to say. Each of us, running in our own class must give our all to being the best in our class. Our doting heavenly Father is delighted with us when we run our very best, sing as well as we can, are as charming as we can be, think as clearly as the interior fog will let us think.

We are always in training, so we must watch what we eat. We must get up off our couches. We must visit the library. We must call some lonely child of God who is longing to hear a friendly voice.  

We pray today for the over three thousand people who lost their lives thirteen years a go today. As well, we pray for their families for whom the grief and deprivations live on.


Thursday, 9/11/14

Today we pray for the people killed in al-Quaeda’s heartless 9/11 attack thirteen years ago today. In the twin towers and the surrounding buildings there were over three thousand souls for whom we pray, As well, we must not forget their families whose grief and deprivations live on.

Three hundred and forty-three fire fighters and seventy-two policemen gave their lives trying to save victims. The death might have been more gruesome for the two hundred and twenty-seven passengers on the two planes. They had minutes to dread the death rushing at them, with some of them sending fearful  final phone messages to their families. Equally pitiable were the more than two hundred whose leaps for safety from the twin towers had no successes.

When we pray for the dead we always like to remember them by name, but that would be difficult with all of 9/11’s victims. A hundred and eighty-nine office workers met instant annihilation when Flight 77 crashed into in the West face of the Pentagon. It would be good if we knew their names and saw their sweet faces, but all we can do for them is to beg our dear Lord to care for them now. 

While going about our everyday business we must have our inner selves fixed on God.


Wednesday, 9/10/14


Paul says, “Let those who weep be as not weeping,
Those rejoicing as not rejoicing ,
Those using this world, as not using it,
For this world in its present form is passing away.

The way we use this world as though not using it is to go about every day’s business, while having our inner self fixed on God.

Don’t you love the 42nd Psalm where it says, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.” 

We must presume that the psalmist whose soul longs for God was also the possessor of a body. That body’s needs would have required him to keep his mind on what he was working on.

For that he had to be a man living on two levels, working attentatively for this life’s needs, while keeping his inner man tuned in on God.

Our keeping our inner selves fixed on God does not distract from working well, rather, God’s inspiration brings us to be better at our work. 

In commanding us to love one another Jesus was telling us to love those who are differerent from us.


Tuesday, 9/9/14

St. Paul listed a variety of sinners who will not enter the kingdom of God. The list included adulterers, sodomites and thieves. He did not, however, say that no one who had ever indulged in those sins could be saved. In fact, speaking to his Christians he said, “That is what some of you used to be.”

I think It is not fair to say that in condemning sodomites the Bible was there condemning all sex acts between people of the same sex. I base my view on how sodomy was first portrayed in the Bible.

It referred to the story in Chapter Nineteen of Genesis. There, two angels, whom, Abraham’s nephew Lot addressed as “Gentlemen,” came to visit Lot in the town of Sodom. We read what happened after they had entered Lot’s house, and the door was locked.

4. All the people to the last man closed in on the house. 5.They called to Lot, and said to him, “Where are the men that came to your house tonight? Bring them out that we may have intimacies with them.”

That is different from the situation with the gays and lesbians we know. Our friends were oriented towards same sex love from their birth. The sodomites in the story from Genesis Nineteen were different. The Bible portrays them as males whose over indulgence in sexual activity had so blunted their libido that they had developed desires for what was originally unnatural to them.

Let me speak of my own orientation. Several times when I was a young man I was approached by men who asked me to have sex with them. They were good men, and I didn’t want to hurt them; but what they were suggesting had absolutely no appeal for me; but since I had similar strong inclinations towards women, I felt empathy with anyone who had equally strong inclinations the other way.

In last Sunday’s reading St. Paul told us that all the commandments are summed up in the one that tells us to love one another.  For me that means I must love people who have sexual orientations different from the ones with which I had to struggle.

On this day, O beautiful Mother, on this day, we give thee our love.


Monday, 9/8/14

Today we celebrate Mary’s birthday. The prophet Micah alluded to her birth when he said the Lord would give up Bethlehem until the coming of her who is to give birth to the one to rule Israel. We might connect Bethlehem's long wait  with our Christmas carol where we sing of Bethlehem’s “deep and dreamless sleep.”  

We know nothing of Mary’s birth or childhood. Perhaps her lack of  early celebrity status is something that nobodies like us can identify. It’s like Emily Dickinson’s poem”

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you - Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us.

And,

“On this day, Oh beautiful Mother,
O this day, we give thee our love.
Near thee, Madonna fondly we hover,
Trusting thy gentle care to prove.”

We must look out for each other.


Sunday, 8/7/14

The readings today tell ordinary Catholics that they can’t leave things to the priests. The second reading tells them that all that is required of them is that they love one another.

I am a great fan of the twenty-three hundred bishops who filled their places in St. Peters for three month straight in 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1965. They did more than fill those benches. They carefully considered and voted on every aspect of our Faith.

Like, at the first session they listened to the Curia explain how the Church is a self-contained society governed by the hierarchy. Those twenty-three hundred bishops voted that out, demanding a truer image for what Christ meant his Church to be. So, the next time around the image they accepted for what Christ means his church to be was, “The Church is the People of God.”

The Gospel tells us we all must look out for each other. Small groups of us should take care of our problems between us. If that fails, Jesus tells us to bring them to the whole church made up of all our groups.

In the third world that lacks big church buildings the Catholics know each other better, and they look out for each other more than we do in America. We must make up for our bigness by getting to know everyone kneeling near us. Knowing them, we get on to looking out for each other.

In calling us then light of the world and the salt of the earth, Christ has entrusted us with the duty of passing on the Christian culture with which he has blessed us.


Saturday, 8/6/14

In his Letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote, “What do you possess that you have not received? 

Lately I have been showing that verse to my Catholic friends. I have gone on to remind them of how they received all their genes from their parents. Then, their parents, building on those natural gifts, have taught them to walk, talk, and behave with others.

From there, their teachers took over, filling their minds with useful knowledge, and enforcing on them habits that have transformed them from being animals to being scholars. They might have been screaming and kicking through their school years, but they have been fully transformed by these  character-building disciplines.

They have become the repositories of their culture, and they have been entrusted with the duty of passing it on.

Together with the thought that they have nothing that they haven’t received, they  must couple what Jesus said in Matthew, 5:13-14. Namely, they are the light of the world, they are the salt of the earth.

In a world given over to pleasure-seeking and despair, those of us grounded in Christian culture have been entrusted with the solemn mission  of being the light of the world and the salt of the earth.