The moments you spend with God in the morning enrich your days.




Wednesday, 4/1/15
Wednesday of Holy Week (with Judas going off to sell Jesus)  is traditionally known as Spy Wednesday. We sometimes use the day for looking back on times when we have been untrue to Christ. But, a happy sentence in the first reading caught my attention, and I’d like to say something about it.
That sentence in the first reading says, “Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear.” Those words could come from the mouths of those in the habit of making morning Mass; but there are a hundred times as many people who, without time for Mass, still begin their days with short chats with God. With him they look over what is ahead, asking him for the strength to do what is right.
The people who get the most out of the morning chats with God might be the Religious Sisters and the seminarians who have meditation time set aside morning after morning.
My own experience as a seminarian was that I slept through most of those morning half hours set aside for meditating. Even so, along with the other boys, I got something out of those morning half hours.
Five years ago, to amuse myself in retirement, I wrote an account of my first day as a seminarian over seventy years ago. I hadn’t looked at that account for a few years, but  I picked it up yesterday afternoon, and I was pleased with it. I had written how a priest came into the room where we were gathered, and he asked each of us to call out his name. Ten of those names come back to me as though it were yesterday. They are all gone now, and only three of them died as priests. But everyone of them went on to lead a good life. And, to come back to my subject, I think the way we were trained to start each day with a meditation on the Scriptures enriched all of our lives.

When Judas left the Last Supper it was nght.


Tuesday, 3/31/15
Imbedded in the final chapters of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah there are four songs for which we have lost the musical accompaniment. They were known as the “Songs of the Suffering Servant.” On Easter, Jesus would explaine that they prophetically applied to him. This week, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we have the first three of the “Songs of the Suffering Servant.” We will have the last of them on Friday.  
The special note in this second of the songs is that the Servant is too great to serve only for the rescue of the Israelites. God will make him a “light to the nations.”
One little note on John’s account of the Last Supper is that in speaking of the departure of Judas, John noted, “And it was night.” Of course, they could not have begun the meal until after dark. What John was noting there is that it was night in the soul of Judas. It was “about noon” when the Samaritan Woman came out to the well.

When Judas left the Last Supper it was dark.


Tuesday, 3/31/15
Imbedded in the final chapters of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah there are four songs for which we have lost the musical accompaniment. They were known as the “Songs of the Suffering Servant.” On Easter, Jesus would explained that they prophetically applied to him. This week, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we have the first three of the “Songs of the Suffering Servant.” We will have the last of them on Friday.  
The special note in this second of the songs is that the Servant is too great to serve only for the rescue of the Israelites. God will make him a “light to the nations.”
One little note on John’s account of the Last Supper is that in speaking of the departure of Judas, John noted, “And it was night.” Of course, they could not have begun the meal until after dark. What John was noting there is that it was night in the soul of Judas. It was “about noon” when the Samaritan Woman came out to the well.

Today's readings provide us with two endearing pictures.


Monday. 3/ 30/15
Today’s readings give us two endearing pictures. The first one is of God’s Suffering Servant, and the second one is of the highly perceptive Mary of Bethany.
We can add nothing to the picture Isaiah gave us of the Suffering Servant. “He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench.
There was all around merriment at the party they gave for Lazarus coming back from the dead. The only exceptions to the joy were the persons of Jesus and Mary. Jesus was sadly looking forward to his death; and the lovingly perceptive Mary, seeing the sadness in the whole make up of her beloved Jesus, spent all her savings in fittingly anointing his body for burial. 

Mark's account of the Passion is intimate. He was there for it.


Sunday, 3/29/15
For Palm Sunday every year we have the reading for the Passion of Jesus. One year it’s from Luke, one year from Matthew; this year it’s from Mark. Luke’s account is a fourth longer than Mark’s. Matthew’s is a third longer. They have some of our favorite parts: like the weeping women of Jerusalem and the good thief who would be with Jesus in Paradise.
What Mark’s story of the Passion has is authenticity, even intimacy. He seems to have been the boy wrapped in a bed sheet who followed the crowd that captured Jesus. When soldiers grabbed his sheet, he left it behind, running home naked. He knew not only Simon of Cyrene, he also knew Simon’s sons Alexander and Rufus.
Mark’s was the first Gospel written, with Matthew and Luke borrowing large chunks of it for their accounts.
Mark wrote to change the minds of those who felt that a person crucified as a traitor could not be the Savior. Mark demonstrated that it was by holding strong through the insults and pain that Jesus demonstrated himself to be the Savior.

While the readings spoke of uniting all Israelites, we must strive to unite all of God's children.



Saturday, 3/28/15
Our reading from Ezekiel dates from a century when the descendents of Jacob were split into two scattered kingdoms. Speaking for God, Ezekiel said, “I will make them one nation.”  And, “I will gather them from all sides.”
When the Gospel spoke of Jesus “Gathering into one the dispersed children of God.” It was talking not only of reuniting all Israelites, it is speaking of bringing together all of God’s people.
In line with that, the last document of Vatican II asserts that we have a “deep feeling of solidarity with the whole human race.”
Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church assert, “Many elements that constitute the Catholic Church are found outside its visible limits.”
Our “Decree on Religious Freedom” declares that every person has a right to religious freedom, and should be free from coercion to change.
At the time of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther had a sidekick named Phillip Melanchthon who drew up his summary of Christian beliefs in what was called, “The Augsburg Confession.” He might have come to some wrong conclusions, but he gave himself so completely to deep thought and to honest prayer that we should consider him a saint.  

We practice understanding by recognizing the sincerity standing under the behavior of those who offend us.


Friday, 3/27/15

 In the Gospel, Jesus referred to himself as, “the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world.” 

Then, knowing that it was the Father’s will that he should not die before Passover time, he slipped away to the safety available across the Jordan, where he could prepare his soul for accepting the horrors to come.

In the first reading, Jeremiah was subjugated to  the hatred and jealousy that would later be visited on  Jesus. On every side he too could hear men planning his death. But Jeremiah answered hatred with hatred. He prayed against his tormentors, pleading, “Let me witness the vengeance you take on them.”

To see how Jesus compared with Jeremiah, let’s take a look ahead at the crucifixion. When they had driven the nails into his feet and hands, they lifted his cross upright. Then, with a loud thud, they dropped its base into the hole it was to stand in.
According to  Luke,  23:34, the prayer of Jesus at that moment was, ”Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.
Isaiah, peering over the centuries, got a glimpse of the Savior, and he described him like this, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest up upon him: a spirit of Wisdom and Understanding.”
With the weight of his body pulling him down against his spiked hands, Jesus exercised heavenly understanding of his enemies.
With the people opposed to us, we can imitate Our Lord’s understanding, by searching out the sincere motives that stand under the behavior that causes us pain. In that way we could come around to saying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.”

We practice understanding by searching out the sincere motives of those who offend us.



Friday, 3/27/15

 In the Gospel, Jesus referred to himself as, “the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world.” 

Then, knowing that it was the Father’s will that he should die a only a few months off at Passover time, he temporarily slipped away to the safety available across the Jordan, where he could prepare his soul or accepting the horrors to come.

In the first reading Jeremiah was subjugated to  the hatred and jealousy that would later be visited on  Jesus. On every side he too could hear men planning his death. But Jeremiah answered hatred with hatred. He prayed against his tormentors, pleading, “Let me witness the vengeance you take on them.”

To see how Jesus compared with Jeremiah, let’s take a look ahead at the crucifixion. When they had driven the nails into his feet and hands, they lifted his cross upright. Then, with a loud thud, they dropped its base into the hole it was to stand in.
According to  Luke,  23:34, the prayer of Jesus at that moment was, ”Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.
Isaiah, peering over the centuries, got a glimpse of the Savior, and he described him like this, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest up upon him: a spirit of Wisdom and Understanding.”
With the weight of his body pulling him down against his spiked hands, Jesus exercised heavenly understanding of is enemies.
With the people opposed to us, we can imitate Our Lord’s understanding, by searching out the sincere motives that stand under the behavior that causes us pain. In that way we could come around to saying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” 

The Feast of the Annunciaion.


Wednesday, 3/25/15

On this March twenty-fifth we celebrate Our Lord’s conception in Mary’s womb. The aspect of the event that struck folk in the Middle Ages was the quiet of it in   comparison to most conceptions , they sang about the stillness of that moment.

“He came all so still to his mother’s bower as dew in April that falleth on the flower. He came all so still where his mother lay, as dew in April that falleth on the spray. Mother and maiden, was never none but she. Well may such a maiden God’s mother be.”

I often think of this feast day in 1976 when it fell on a Thursday. I was saying weekday Masses in a little chapel in Crescent City, ninety miles south of here, and the same eight people showed up on every weekday.

For Sunday Mass we had a bigger church on Highway 17 south of town. The Sunday before this feast I told the people that the Annunciation should be our biggest feast day. With God’s taking on human form making it the most eventful happening in history.

My remarks registered with people. After Mass some of them asked me if Thursday, the Feast of the Annunciation, were a holyday of obligation. Even during the week  people phoned to ask if the Feast of the Annunciation were a holy day of obligation.

I told everybody that it wasn’t a Holy Day of Obligation, but I thought all the inquiries would lead to people packing the chapel On Thursday, but only four people came!

Back then we all believed that if we missed Mass on a Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation we would be committing a Mortal Sin. So, when people learned that the Annunciation was not a Holy Day of Obligation they took advantage of their being able to stay away without committing a  Mortal Sin.

The Son is the image of the invisible God.


Tuesday, 3/24/15

The Gospel echoed today’s first reading. There, when Moses lifted up the bronze serpent, all who looked upon it were saved. In the Gospel Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man you will realize that I Am.”

“I AM” is the English translation of “Yahweh,” the name God gave for himself, speaking to Moses in Chapter Three of the Book of Exodus.

In the Gospel, when Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own,” he was telling us something about the life of Father and Son in the Blessed Trinity.

Now, although the Trinity, as a mystery, is a truth that we cannot fully understand, still God wants us to grasp as much of him as we are capable. He is like a father who imparts to his toddler as much as the child is able to grasp.  

So, let us ponder over what God reveals about himself in two passages from the Epistles. In the first chapter of his Letter to the Colossians Paul, speaking of the Son, began by saying,  “He is the image of the invisible God.”

After you have questioned how there can be an image of what is invisible, you can go on to read, “In him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible.”

That was hard enough to grasp before the discovery of DNA a century ago. But, now we know that each of the millions of cells in our bodies is itself composed of millions of atoms. Now, that is intricate!

It gets mor complicated when you try picturing how the Father saw the pattern for all that in the Son.

Let’s put aside that passage from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, taking up instead the opening verses from the Letter to the Hebrews. There, speaking of the Son through whom the Father created all things, the passage calls him the “refulgence” of the Father’s glory, “the very imprint of his being.”

If your brain is swirling from all that, perhaps you should go to the First Letter of St. John, where, speaking of the Blessed Trinity, John said, “God is love.” 

Jesus knelt down so as not to associate himself with those who condemned the woman.


Monday, 3/23/15

It was during the week-long Feast of Tabernacles that the woman was caught in the act of adultery. That was the week when the people of Jerusalem, to recall the forty desert years when their ancestors lived in tents, abandoned their homes to live in palm branch huts set up in the streets. We would guess that people during that week, seeing each other in their underwear, might fall into temptation.

With the Pharisees bringing just the woman before Jesus, we are set to wondering if she somehow had been committing adultery alone.

Although Moses commanded such a woman to be stoned to death, Roman Law forbade such a killing. The Pharisees were tricking Jesus by making him guilty of disobeying either Jewish or Roman Law.

Jesus bent down, and he began to write in the dust. Some people guess that he wrote the one word “Love,” other people say he wrote the sins of the Pharisees. It might be that he was just doodling in a show of disassociating himself from those who stood around accusing the woman.     

It is good for us, when we fall into accusing others, to think of Jesus telling us, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

It is wrong to say that this story shows that Jesus approves of adultery. No, he told the woman to sin no more.

Jesus knelt down so as not to be standing in the circle of those who condemned the woman.


Sunday, 3/22/15

The first reading recalled how God promised that he would make a new covenant with us, and the Gospel pictured Jesus in the weeks when he was preparing to enact that covenant with his blood.

We get a better picture of the New Covenant by looking at the other covenants with which we are familiar. First, we will look at the marriage covenant.

As a priest I have hundreds of times asked a man and a woman, “Have you come here freely, and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?”
In conclusion I have aid, “What God has joined, men must not divide.”

Net, let’s look at the Old Covenant. In advance of it God said, “You will be my people, and I will be your God.” Then in Chapter Twenty-four of Exodus we read of how that covenant was ratified.

Below Mt. Sinai Moses had constructed a stone altar to represent God. Then, he had all the people of the twelve tribes assemble on the plain before the mountain. Next, he sent young men to slaughter steers, and to carry in the blood in large brass bowls.

With those preparations made, Moses told the people that if they wanted to enter into a family-like relationship with God, they would need to be like him by observing his commandments. He next called out each of the ten commandments; and as the people were calling out their willingness to observe each of them, the young men passed through the crowd sprinkling everyone there with the steer blood.
The Israelites believed that blood, any blood, was life itself. By their all being sprinkled with blood they became blood relations of one another.

That rite of sprinkling blood was concluded by the young men pouring the last of the blood on God’s altar, making the Israelites his people, and him their God.

At the Last Supper Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Then he asked them if they would keep his commandment, which was that they “love one another, as he had lived them.”  

Jesus bent down so as not to be standing in the circle of those who condemned the woman.

Our first reading contained God's promise of entering a new covenant with us, while the Gospel has Jesus looking forward to establishing that covenant with his blood.


Sunday, 3/22/15

The first reading recalled how God promised that he would make a new covenant with us, and the Gospel pictured Jesus in the weeks when he was preparing to enact that covenant with his blood.

We get a better picture of the New Covenant by looking at the other covenants with which we are familiar. First, we will look at the marriage covenant.

As a priest I have hundreds of times asked a man and a woman, “Have you come here freely, and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?”

In conclusion I have said, “What God has joined, men must not divide.”

Next, let’s look at the Old Covenant. In advance of it, God said, “You will be my people, and I will be your God.” Then in Chapter Twenty-four of Exodus we read of how that covenant was ratified.

Below Mt. Sinai, Moses had constructed a stone altar to represent God. Then, he had all the people of the twelve tribes assemble on the plain before the mountain. Next, he sent young men to slaughter steers, and to carry in the blood in large brass bowls.

With those preparations made, Moses told the people that if they wanted to enter into a family-like relationship with God, they would need to be like him by observing his commandments. He next called out each of the ten commandments; and as the people were calling out their willingness to observe each of them, the young men passed through the crowd sprinkling everyone there with the steer blood.

The Israelites believed that blood, any blood, was life itself. By their all being sprinkled with blood, they became blood relations of one another.

That rite of sprinkling blood was concluded by the young men pouring the last of the blood on God’s altar, making the Israelites his people, and him their God.

At the Last Supper Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Then he asked them if they would keep his commandment, which was that they “love one another, as he had lived them.”  

I once hired a gentleman named Nikodemus.


Saturday, 3/21/15

Pardon me, but the Gospel’s mention of Nicodemus has turned my thoughts onto a man named Nicodemus whom long ago I hired to work for our parish in Korea.

We foreign priests were the only priests available in Korea, and that had us trying to function  where we knew little of their language. That led each of us to hire a sidekick to do our paper work. In every one of our parishes that job was filled by a man each of us called his poksa.

For my first poksa I hired a man named Peter when I was given a parish in September of 1954. Pete carried the Mass kit when we visited the villages. He rendered my catechism instructions into language I could manage. He was good at starting fires, and at sitting with me for a smoke.

But  as a prisoner of the Communists for three war years Pete had been roughed up badly, and that made his miserable health put an end to our pleasant association.

Our bishop recommended I hire a young man named Nicodemus who had attended the seminary in Seoul when it was in operation before the war. So, “Nicko” came aboard, and he rented a house down in town.

I was soon left to carrying the Mass kit and to lighting my own fires. What’s more, I learned that Ncko had turned his house into a restaurant with hostesses.

He explained to me that traditionally Korea had two levels of employment. Along with working men there were those with official positions that put them in the gentleman class. Korea had a traditional class of men who were free to smoke long pipes discussing philosophy. They were  called the yangbahns, and Nicko’s role as my poksa made him a yangbahn.

I told Nicko that my origins with a lowly working class family led me to release him to find a position of dignity elsewhere.

St. Joseph, whom we honored two days ago, taught us that nothing matches good hard work for rendering us dignity.

Like Job, Jesus pleads with us, saying,"Have pity on me at least you my friends, for the hand of the Lord is on me"


Friday, 3/20/15

The readings today present us with Our Lord’s mounting sorrows. The Gospel speaks from the beginning of a week in early winter three months before his death. It was when the people of Jerusalem had their peculiar way of recalling the forty years when their ancestors wandered about the desert in tents. For a whole week at the beginning of winter they would abandon their homes to live in palm branch huts set up in the streets.

That year, it had become common talk that the leaders were planning to do away with Jesus; and the people, anxious to see him, were wondering if he would show up for the week-long feast. He surprised and delighted them by appearing, and  Chapter Seven and Eight of John’s Gospel give us great pictures of Jesus addressing those crowds.

However, today it is not the Gospel but that first reading that calls for our attention. It recounts the hateful murmuring of the Jewish leaders. Jesus was immeasurably saddened listening to their plotting, knowing that in three months time they would succeed in stripping him and nailing him to a cross between two thieves.

From the distance of these many years, we can still hear Jesus calling to us. Like Job he pleads, “Have pity on me at least you my friends, for the hand of the Lord is on me.”

The feast of St. Joseph is also the feast of anyone named Joe.

Thursday, 3/19/15

Today we honor St. Joseph, husband to Mary and father to Jesus.  This feast of St. Joseph is also the feast day of all those named Joseph. You might celebrate the day by giving a thought and a prayer for everyone you know who has been worthy of the name Joe.

Joseph English was for thirty years the pastor of the parish where I grew up. Father English was not a glad-hander. Just the opposite, he was an aloof gentleman. A great size of a man, he slept on a very narrow cot on a bedroom with no furniture other than a chipped white hospital cart. He spent his one day off at the rectory of an Irish priest friend where he rocked on the porch, eating his way through a bag of apples, reading through a selection of lassical literature.

Our family chided a Protestant friend named Joe Kelley. Joe always tore up his tax return checks, saying he owed his country so much more. (I tell you, Joe, that is not a common attitude.)

I have a blind niece for whom the highlight of each day is the phone call from her brother Joe. They  had a homosexual cousin who could say, "Joe actually looks up to me!"

I flipped through our school's Year Book, but didn't find any Joseph. Any one know St. Scott and St. Curtis's feast day. They are the patron saints of some of our kids.


John's Gospel tells us that in leading us to heaven Jesus follows what the Father did leading the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Wednesday, 3/18/15


In the Gospel Jesus said, “I say to you, the Son can not do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing.”

I am sure the Scripture scholars could explain to you just what Jesus meant there, but most us feel good when on our own we feel we have uncovered some of the Bible’s secrets. Let me tell you about my coming on a meaning for that sentence in today’s Gospel.

 Thirty years ago when I had to teach a course on John’s Gospel to a parochial school’s Eighth Grade I had the great help of Father Raymond Brown’s wonderful two-volume commentary on John’s Gospel, but I wanted to dig into it line by line.

I did just that. At the end of every other line I marked the theme touched on. Was it sin, or love, or the Spirit, or what? As I went line by line, I also marked every reoccurrence of each theme on the inside of the back cover.

When I had carefully read through all twenty-one chapters of John’s Gospel I was amazed to find that the list on my back cover assured me that the theme the Gospel kept coming back to was how in leading us to heaven Jesus kept doing what the Father had done in leading the Israelites to the Promised Land.

The Exodus story began with the erection of the Father’s Meeting tent, resulting in its glowing with his glory.  John, 1:14, speaking of Jesus, stated, “He made his dwelling with us, and we saw his glory.”

Where the Father sent down bread from heaven, Jesus said he was the true bread from heaven. Where the Father gave water from the rock, Jesus said, “If anyone thirst let him come to me drink.” Where the Father sent a fiery cloud to lead the Israelites through the desert nights, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, whoever  follows mw will not walk in darkness.”

As those parallels went on and on it sunk on me that John wrote his Gospel  to show that Jesus will as surely lead us to heaven as the Father led the Israelites to their Promised Land.

St. Patrick was the champion of a people who badly needed one.

Tuesday, 3/17/15

Today we honor St. Patrick, born around the year 380. His parents were Roman citizens living on Britain. At thirteen he was taken by slavers who carried him off to northern Ireland where he was purchased by a man named Milchu, who set him to herding his sheep. Although Patrick had not been particularly religious, Jesus became his sole companion out on the hills. At seventeen he escaped, finding passage to northern France.

Making his way south, he advanced in his schooling while staying with Catholic relatives in Lyons. Then, with a desire to be closer to God, he made his way south to the island of Lerins off the coast, where Athanasius, the exiled bishop of Alexandria had founded a monastery some fifty years earlier.  

There, Patrick took to singing the Psalms at set hours of the day, and he made frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In 430 Pope Celestine appointed him the bishop of all Ireland. Ireland at that time had no towns. The clans all followed the seasons. To serve them, Patrick didn't establish any parishes, instead he founded monasteries where the wanders could stop by for Sacraments.

Patrick's importance with the Irish stems from their being a downtrodden nation greatly in need of a champion.  In 1155 our only English pope, Adrian IV, put Ireland under the care of England, and from then until 1916 the Irish were ruled at the whim of England's kings who portioned Ireland off into the estates of English Lords.

Then, with the English rebelling against the popes, they persecuted the Irish for remaining Catholic. In 1649 England's future Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, judging the Catholics of Drogheda and Wexford to be heretics with no right to live, put all the people there to the sword. As well, down to my great grandparents' time, Irish Catholics were bound to tithe to the Church of England.

The Irish are no better than any other race of people, but they had to pretend to be special just to keep their  spirits up through terrible times.


For Christians Jerusalem is the symbol for God's people living together in harmony.


Monday, 3/16/15

In our first reading today the prophet foresaw a new Jerusalem in which there “shall always be rejoicing and happiness. For I create Jerusalem to be a joy.”

That prophet spoke in 535 b.c. when the Babylonian exile was coming to an end, and God was promising to help rebuild the devastated Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has been of prime importance to many people. For the Jews it was their capitol established for all times by David. For Islam, it was the sacred rock from which the Prophet arose to heaven. For Christians it is the symbol of God’s people living together in harmony.

It is that image that is enshrined in Chapter 21 of Revelation, where John wrote that one of the seven angels, “took me in spirit to a great, and high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God.”   

That is the image of  Jerusalem in the Holy City” final verse that goes like this.

And once again the scene was changes, New earth there seemed to be,
I saw the Holy City rise beside a tideless sea.
The light o God was in the streets, the gates were opened wide,
And all who would might enter, and no one was denied.

No need for moon or stars by night, nor sun to shine by day.
It was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away.
It was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, sing for the night is o’er.
Hosanna in the highest, hosanna forever more
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna for evermore”


To really believe in Christ means you take him as the light you follow in all you do and in all you avoid.


Sunday, 2/15/15

Our Gospel today gives us a verse of which Baptist believers are fond. Namely, John 3:16 “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”    

Twenty years ago when I was teaching grade school Religion, we often had non-Catholic children who attended our school because it was a “Private School.” They were unhappy in my Religion class because they hadn’t been raised to accept Catholic teachings.

In our written Religion tests, one thirteen-year-old boy would answer all questions by writing,, “John 3:16, THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW!”

If you follow the rest of today’s Gospel you will see that boy would have been right if he understood that really believing in Christ meant a lot more than saying he believed. It would mean that he took Christ as the light of his life. Meaning, he let Christ’s secret promptings be the light shining on what he had to do, on what he had to avoid.

Like Jesus said in our Gospel, if that boy or any of us let Christ lighten our way, we would never have anything to hide.

Once, as a switch from the usual tests I put before the kids in my Religion classes back then, I asked each of them to tell a story. The assignment was, WRITE THE STORY ABOUT HOW YOU ONCE COURAGOUSLY STOOD UP FOR YOU BELIEFS.

That thirteen-year-old Baptist boy wrote, “I have to do it every day in this school.”

Then, just ten years ago a twenty-three-year-old Best Man at a wedding thanked me for all he learned in my Religion Class. That same boy.

God speaks to each of us in each of the Mass readings.



 Saturday, 2/14/15

All of our daily Mass readings are Bible passages that speak to us, if we would listen.

You could be struck by the first reading where Hosea urges us, “Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord.” At times really knowing the Lord might seem to evade you. The physical presence of Jesus has been gone for two thousand years. Then, when you are praying to God, you are aware that a million other people are praying to him, and you might wonder how his personal switchboard could handle all those prayers. 

Well, you needn’t worry about there being too many calls for God. Genesis tells us he made us in his own image, and science tells us that he fitted together the 37, 000,000,000,000 cells in your body, along with the 14,000,000,000 atoms in each of those cells. So, you needn’t worry about God’s ability to handle complexity.

Next, you many have been touched by many aspects of Our Lord’s story of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee, but there is one detail that you might have missed. Near the end of the story Jesus said the Tax Collector went home justified. In saying that he went home, Jesus was saying that the man didn’t change his job as a tax collector. By letting him go on with that, Jesus was giving his blessing to such less-than-noble work that our world demand of us. A tax collector, an insurance salesman, even a bartender, by clean living can be as pleasing to God as a monk or a nun.

"Hear oh Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord alone."


(Pardon me, by mistake I published this yesterday)

Friday, 2/13/15

A Scribe asked Jesus what was the greatest of the commandments. It is likely that rival temple scholars were holding a debate on this question. Again, it is likely that while one side held for the dominance of strictures on keeping the Sabbath holy, while others were saying that rules governing keeping Kosher were more important.

The Scribe was impressed with the sound religious sense of Our Lord’s answer. Yes, having the right attitude toward God is our chief requirement.

The wording of Lord’s answer was as much a part of Jewish life as the Sign of the Cross is for Catholics.

“Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord alone.”

I once heard that the Hebrew for that went something like this:
“Shmah, Israel, Adonai elohim, Adonai ach-ham.”

The first word, “Shmah” was stronger than “hear.” It was more like, “Shut up, and listen!” 

“Israel, meaning “wrestles with God” was a name God gave Jacob after he fought with God at the Jabbok ford. All Jews were descended from Jacob, so they jointly were addressed as Israel.

The Jews were not allowed to utter the name God gave to himself. So, they would substitute “Adonai” a Semitic name for a lord.

Elohim”  was the plural for “el” the generic Semitic word for a god. Our god is like all the gods put together 

Ach-ham, meaning “alone” was fun to pronounce, hawking up the word from deep inside.  

Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord alone.


Thursday, 2/12/15

A Scribe asked Jesus what was the greatest of the commandments. It is likely that rival temple scholars were holding a debate on this question. Again, it is likely that while one side held for the dominance of strictures on keeping the Sabbath holy, while others were saying that rules governing keeping Kosher were more important.

The Scribe was impressed with the sound religious sense of Our Lord’s answer. Yes, having the right attitude toward God is our chief requirement.

The wording of Lord’s answer was as much a part of Jewish life as the Sign of the Cross is for Catholics.

“Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord alone.”

I once heard that the Hebrew for that went something like this:
“Shmah, Israel, Adonai elohim, Adonai ach-ham.”

The first word, “Shmah” was stronger than “hear.” It was more like, “Shut up, and listen!” 

“Israel, meaning “wrestles with God” was a name God gave Jacob after he fought with God at the Jabbok ford. All Jews were descended from Jacob, so they jointly were addressed as Israel.

The Jews were not allowed to utter the name God gave to himself. So, they would substitute “Adonai” a Semitic name for a lord.

Elohim”  was the plural for “el” the generic Semitic word for a god. Our god is like all the gods put together 

Ach-ham, meaning “alone” was fun to pronounce, hawking up the word from deep inside.

Jesus comes to us in the Mass not to be set aside and adored. He comes to us to make us physically one with him in a pleasing gift to the Father.



Wednesday, 2/11/15

The readings today are concerned with observing the law, and holding to sacred traditions; and that prompts me to suggest we return to making the Eucharist what it was at the Last Supper.  In going strong for adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we are missing out on why he comes to us in the form of bread.

Up until the year four hundred, we celebrated the Eucharist as we had at the Last Supper. Christians avoided calling our table an altar, since that was a word tied to pagan worship. We lay on the floor, imagining Jesus beside us, asking us to become part of his sacrifice.

When Emperor Constantine died in 337 his sons split the Empire, with the one in  the east ruling from Constantinople, the one in the west ruling from Milan in Italy. In that century Christianity was threatened by a take-over by the Arians who insisted that Jesus was a good man, but not the Son of God. In 350 the emperor in Milan appointed an Arian named Auxentius an Arian bishop.

After twenty-four years Auxentius died, and Gratian, the new emperor, ordered the governor of northern Italy to assemble the Christians and Arians for choosing a new bishop both sides could live with. At the assembly, a child called out, “Let the governor be our bishop.” The governor was our St. Ambrose, and he saw that in twenty-four years under the Arian bishop the people had lost respect for Jesus.

Ambrose hit on a plan for getting the people to honor Jesus properly. In his daily attendance on Emperor Gratian, Ambrose had learned how to kneel and bow to him, and how to allow only gold and fine linen touch the emperor’s person. To get the people to honor Jesus, Ambrose ordered them to treat Jesus in the Eucharist the way they had to treat the emperor.

Ambrose turned our churches into audience halls for the King of Kings with ushers commanding the people to “Bow, Bow, bow!”

Our word Eucharist literally means “A pleasing gift.” Jesus gives himself to us so that we might be physically one with him in a pleasing gift of obedience and love for the Father. He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”