Therese of Lisieux though of herself as the child Jesus's rubber ball. He liked playing with her, but then ignored her for weeks and weeks.

Thursday, 10/1/15

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.

Jerome rendered all the Bible scrolls into beautiful Latin.

Wednesday, 9/30/15

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.

We honor the Archangels Michael and Raphael.

Tuesday, 9/29/15

Today we celebrate the feast of the Archangels Michael and Raphael of whom we know very little.

Of Michael we know that the Bible presents him as the leader of the heavenly army. We see this in today’s reading that tells us, “War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.”

(This was written when Israel was under the rule of the Persians who pictured heaven as inhabited by good and evil forces.)

We know Archangel Raphael from the Book of Tobit that was written after the northern tribes were carried off by the Assyrians. Tobit’s father, Tobiah, was alone among his fellow captives who remained true to his faith. He often took care to give honorable burials to his slaughtered fellow countrymen.

When he needed to send his son on a mission to a far place, he went out to the market in search of a reliable guide. At that time Raphael, disguised as an Israelite name Azariah , presented himself; and he went on to help young Tobit accomplish everything.

When he and young Tobit returned, along with Tobit’s bride Sarah, Raphael revealed his true identity, saying:

“God commissioned me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.” 

Francis has not left us all getting along with each other.

Monday, 9/28/15

Jesus said, “Whoever is not against you is for you.” In line with that, Pope Francis left us feeling that we are all in love with one another. However, our newspapers are telling us that there is still some discord left here.

The papers have interviewed Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the Director of the Congregation of the Faith, and one  paper has this to say about Cardinal Muller. “He is one of the many who without challenging the immensely popular pope head-on, have sought to weather the so-called Francis effect by inculcating the next generation of faithful with their own prioities of a church of rules.

Then, it was  John Boehner, speaker of the House, who invited Francis to speak to a joint session of Congress. And, sitting behind the pope as he talked; Boehner made up his mind to leave politics. The paper says that his resignation is bringing on a sense of dread that an already bitter and divisive political atmosphere is about to get even worse.   

Francis is telling us to pray that it doesn’t happen. 

"Anyone who is not against us is for us."

Sunday, 9/27/15

In the Gospel when the disciples of Jesus tried to keep outsiders from doing good in his name, Jesus said, “Do not prevent them. Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

We saw an example of that Friday at the Nine-Eleven Memorial. Pope Francis stood  with a representative Buddhist,  Muslim,  Sikh, Orthodox Christian, Rabbi,  Hindu. Each of them was in his or her distinctive color, and Francis was in white as they joined the New York’s Youth Chorus singing, “”Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

For five or six days in a row, Francis attended five of six events a day. I got tired of following it on television, but Francis, with his sciatic legs kept plodding along, and looking lovingly into people’s eyes 

Francis had a formal meeting with the United Nations Assembly, with the U.S. Congress, with the families of the nine-eleven victims, with America’s bishops and religious; and with group after group after group.

But for us who were able to follow his talks on television, Francis wasn’t talking with groups. No, he was locking his tired eyes with you and me.

What I found most endearing was the scene Thursday morning. In the street outside Catholic Charities, volunteers were setting up round tables with fresh white and blue cloths and with flower vases. From three in the morning an assortment of addicts, felons, over-aged prostitutes, and  homeless were taking turns with the showers, and looking for something to wear. They were all saying, “We are going to have lunch with the pope.”

Let me tell you about my reaction to the Holy Father’s visit. As a young person I was surrounded by wise and holy men and women who made me feel at home in my world. I hadn’t realized it, but over the years that feeling of security had slipped away a bit.  So, my great surprise this week was that in locking eyes with Francis, I felt my childhood’s complete security taking hold of me again.

The chalice consecrated at Mass is the blood of the new covenant making us one with each other and with God

Saturday, 9/26/15

Every day at Mass we hear the priest saying the words of consecration over the chalice, but we seldom stop to consider those words. So, let’s see  their  meaning.

The priest says, “This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant.”

That reference to the New Covenant should make us consider the part played by blood in the old covenant that we read about in Chapter Twenty-Four of Exodus.

There, Moses gathered the whole people before Mt. Sinai and God’s altar. He was asking the people if they would obey the commandments, and they agree to obey each.

(That was similar to what happens in the marriage covenant when the parties agree to love and honor each other. The Mass follows Jesus who said this is the commandment of my covenant, that you love one another.)

The part of that Sinai covenant that was most similar to our Mass  was that Moses had young men slaughter steers, then come out carrying the blood in brass bowls.

Now, the Jews believed that blood was life itself. So, when Moses had the young men going through the crowd, sprinkling blood on ever person, they felt that they were all united as members of the same family. What is more, those young men spilled the last of the blood on God’s altar, making them all one family with him.

The Mass is a covenant ceremony in which the lifeblood of Jesus makes us all one family with each other and with God.

Peter identified Jesus as "the Christ of God."

Friday, 9/25/15

Peter’s way of identifying Jesus as “the Christ of God,” alerts us to the real greatness of Jesus. It was in his being much more than the wonderworker we praise when we sing, “Jesus, my Jesus, you are my Lord.”

No. Jesus identified himself as being, “The only way to the Father.” So, let us let him be our way to the Father.

St. Paul grasped the truth of that. In his letters he hardly ever mentioned Jesus. He related only to Christ, as he was in heaven in Paul’s time, and as he is now in our time.

We can find a handy crutch for lifting us up to God by using the opening phrases in the Gospel according to John.

We say, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We muse over what that tells us about God. Then we take it to prompt us to talk with God.

Then, we say, “All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.” We think over what that means. Then, we speak with him about it.

Next, we say, “In him was life, and the life was the light of the whole human race.”

(Just as the light of the sun provides every watt of energy in use by all the creatures in the solar system, so every bit of all their mental energy is light coming from God who is the life of the world.) We think about that, then, we speak with God about our thoughts and dreams.

Herod is there as a warning for us to not fall into a similar lack of character.

Thursday, 9/24/15

This Herod is the grandson of tha Herod who was responsible for the death of the boys under two in Bethlehem. Then, the Romans allowed four descendents of that Herod the Great, to rule over four sections of the Holy Land that remained subject to Rome.

When this Herod took over the wife of his brother Phillip, John the Baptist condemned him and her. That wife, Herodias, then goaded Herod into putting John into a basement cell..

Highly fascinated with John, Herod used to sit halfway down the cellar stairs from where he could listen to John speaking with the jailor.

In the next chapter of this story, when Herodias had her daughter request the head of John the Baptist on a platter, Herod, for fear of having his guests laugh at him, sent a man to cut off John’s head.

Next, when Herod heard about Jesus, the wonder worker, he found him even more fascinating than John the Baptist.

And then, he was happy as could be when Pontius Pilate sent Jesus over to him. The play “Jesus Christ Superstar” gave a very good picture of Herod when he sang, “Come on  Jesus, play the fool; walk across  my swimming pool.”

The Bible does not give us these pictures of Herod so that we might enjoy ourselves scorning him. No, Herod is there to warn us from falling into his faults. We should not develop a similar faulty character, ruled by our love of ease and by our worry about what worldly people think of us. 

Jesus gave his disciples the power to cure diseases and the power to drive out demons.

Wednesday, 9/23/15

Jesus gave his disciples power over demons, and he sent them out to cure diseases. In the last century many Christians became convinced that they too, as disciples of the Lord, had those gifts. They said that all that had been needed was for them to start exercising their gifts.

I was appointed pastor in a parish where there was a group of such people. Lucky for me, they considered my role as pastor to be a special gift from God, and they put up with it when I made fun of them. I did that by comparing them to Rene Descartes, who wrote his  “Principles of Philosophy”” in 1644.
Descartes began that work by saying that all previous philosophies had fallen into error by accepting false assumptions. Saying he would base his Philosophy only on what he could prove, Descartes laid the foundation for all truth, by asserting that the one thing that he could prove was that he was thinking. He worded that by saying, “I think, therefore I am.”

Using that against my parishioners who thought themselves possessed of special gifts, I told one of them,  “You are like Descartes. You have the gift of healing because you say you have the gift of healing.” To another I said, “And you have the gift  of driving out spirits because you say you have that gift.”

One of those ladies called me up, and said, “Father, you are possessed by a devil” When I asked her how she knew that, she answered, “I know that because I have the gift of discernment of spirits.”     

Iran was once Israel's best friend.

Tuesday, 9/22/15

That first reading doesn’t require much explanation, but it might help to put it into a broader historical setting.

In 587 b.c. the Babylonians (from modern day Iraq) led the whole citizenship of Jerusalem off  as prisoners to Mesopotamia, where they  employed them in constructing dikes to hold the Tigris and Euphrates fom flooding the land between them.

In 535 b.c. the Persians (modern day Iranians) conquered Babylon; and their leader, Cyrus II, declared the Israelites to have been mistreated; and he supplied them with funds to return to Jerusalem.

The Psalms tell us that the mouths of the returning Israelites were filled with laughter; but everything did not go well with them.  They found they didn’t have the means or the know-how to rebuild their temple. Our reading speaks of how the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged them to try.

But then, Darius, son of Cyrus II, and his son, Artaxerxces, supplied them with funds and architects to finish the temple. And, they dedicated the Second Temple it in 515 b.c..

The odd thing about this is that Persia, modern day Iran, should have been Israel’s best friend.  

Matthew wrote his Gospel to show that Jesus, rather than abolishing the Law and Prophets, had come to fulfill them.

Monday, 9/21/15

Matthew’s Gospel was written by followers of Matthew.

Thirty years after the death and Resurrection of Jesus, Jewish terrorists began hiding on roadsides, then ambushing Roman soldiers. The terrorists would then hide in alleyways deep in Jerusalem where the Romans could not get at them.

The Romans, after losing many men over three years, made the fatal decision of closing off Jerusalem, then killing all the inhabitants, and destroying the city.

When the Romans had locked the gates, and after they had erected catapults to hurl fire into the city, they were approached by a delegation. It was the Pharisees who had always been loyal to Rome; and the Roman General Titus allowed them to leave the doomed city.

Those Pharisees set up camp on the Mediterranean coast, and from there they followed news of the temple and the city’s complete destruction.

As orthodox Jews they had always identified themselves as people of the Temple, so on losing the Temple, they were left without a core to their religion. After pondering the matter, they decided that what made them real Jews was their following the thousands of extra laws their rabbis had added to the Law of  Moses.

After firmly deciding on that, they looked around, and they found that half of the Jewish population was made up of followers of that Jesus who had scoffed at those precepts added to the Law of Moses. 

Those leading Pharisees then announced that the followers of Jesus had lost their right to be called Jews. They were saying that Jesus had meant to destroy the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew wrote his Gospel to prove that the opposite of that was true. He quoted Jesus saying, “I have not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. I have rather come to fulfill them”

Matthew quoted the way that Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, one by one completed the Law of Moses. Where Moses had said “Thou shalt not kill,” Jesus said, “You should not be angry with your brother.” Where Moses had said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” Jesus had said, “You shall not lust.”

We receive Communion at Mass so that we might be physically as well as mentally one with Jesus in our Pleasing Gift (our Eucharist.)

Sunday, 9/20/15

First Century Christian communities had a great little handbook for conducting baptisms and for offering the Mass.Its English name would have been The Teaching of the Apostles; but since no one spoke English back then it was known by the Greek word for teaching, which was “Didache.” (pronounced did-a-kay)

For the Mass the Didache said something like this, “When you come together on the Lord’s Day, begin by confessing your sins, so that your sacrifice will be pure. And. if anyone has a difference with another, let them be reconciled, so that it does not ruin your sacrifice; for the Lord has said that we must have an unblemished sacrifice in all places.”

Two things that stand out there, are first of all, is that our Mass is three times referred to as our sacrifice; and secondly, with no mention of a special role for a priest, it is everyone’s sacrifice.

Christians for three centuries had debates over the question as to just what made this ritual a sacrifice. Many people thought that a sacrificial act was represented by the body and blood being separated as in death.

But, after three hundred years, St. Augustan settled the matter. He told us that the sacrifice consists in Christ and us people submitting our wills to God as a pleasing gift. . We call our sacrifice “the Eucharist” which is Greek for a “Pleasing Gift.”

Each of us takes a full part in the sacrifice of the Mass  by joining Jesus in completely submitting our wills to the will of God in one “Pleasing Gift.”

The reason we receive communion in this sacrifice is that at the same time we are mentally one with Jesus in the Pleasing Gift, we might also be physically one with him in our Eucharist.

We experience many fine urges from God, and we live happy lives by following them

Saturday, 9/ 19/15

Jesus told a story about a farmer scattering his seed, and he told us that the seed was the word of God. We could say that by “the word of God” he was referring to verses from the Bible; but it seems more likely that what he meant was urges that come to us from God.

In the course of a day we experience many fine urges. We feel the urge to do something good: like an urge to visit a needy person or to lend help to some one in need. We feel the urge to read the Bible, or some other worthy book.

Our Lord says that typically we respond to such urges in one of four ways.

First, we are like the hard soil of the pathway that represents our hearts when we are so wrapped up in other matters that God’s urging doesn’t sink in.

Secondly we are like an inch of soil over a layer of stone. The seed falling there takes advantage of the heat and moisture on the layer of stone. It germinates, and it springs up immediately, but it dies quickly, for its lack of roots. We are like that when we enthusiastically respond to God’s urging, but don’t follow through with it.

Third, we are like the soil thick with weeds and brambles. That happens when our vices, our laziness, chokes out our good intentions.

Lastly, we are like the see falling on good soil when we take God’s urgings to heart, following through with them, building a happy life.

St. Luke brought out the role of women in early Christianity.

Friday, 9/18/15

While Matthew, Mark and John hardly mention the women followers of Jesus, St. Luke was strong on bringing out their role at the birth of Christianity.

In the America I grew up in, women were more restricted than they are now. My sisters would never phone a boy, while now those kind of calls give life to the cell phone industry.

On this matter, I like telling one of my old Korean stories. For six years, from 1954 to 1960, I was the only foreigner in Yang Yang town. We had no electricity; but it was like living in the Middle Ages, and I found it great.

On my home leave in 1961 I had such an exciting time that I felt lonely after I went back to Yang Yang, I spent hours pacing back and forth on our hill top.

I had been back three month when I was visited by Miss Pak, the English teacher at the Boys’ High School. She told me that she needed to work hard for five years, while she sent her little sisters through school. Till then, she said, she could have no romance, but she would come to me each Saturday morning for English conversation.

Those Saturday mornings became my lifeline, and after six months, Miss Pak asked me if she should become a Catholic. I could not use Religious instructions as an excuse for seeing more of her; so I told her, “You must decide that for yourself.”

Her come back let me see how women were regarded in Korea. Angry with me, she pointed out, “You are the man. Don’t you know that men must make all the decisions?”

America Magazine just carried an article by John Kerry in which he wrote about a new Religion-Awareness  Department in the State Department. He said that among other things the department works at promoting further awareness of the dignity of women. 

Jesus did not let silly rules stand in the way of our being kind.

Thursday, 9’17/15

In the Gospel Jesus reclined in quiet as a woman identified as being sinful bathed his feet with her tears. The Pharisee who was Our Lord’s host said to himself, if Jesus were a prophet he would know that the woman touching him is unclean.

We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the woman was a prostitute. She might just have been a person who did not keep all the kosher rules.

The basic Jewish kosher rules came from Chapter Eleven of Leviticus that forbade their eating pork and shellfish. Knowing that without refrigeration those foods could bring on food poisoning, to protect the health of a very religious people, Moses made it part of their religion.

 Then, around the year 450 b.c. Jerusalem took on the Mosaic Law as the people’s civil law; but to bring the rules up to date, they began accepting amendments to what the Bible forbade. That was fine, but in the following centuries those amendments became so numerous, that only religious professions  could keep up with them all.

It got more difficult when they decided that anyone who did not observe all the amendments, known as the Mishnah, was considered unclean. And, if that wasn’t enough, it was decreed that anyone who touched a so-called  unclean person became unclean.

Jesus considered that to be ridiculous, and in so doing, he was telling us not to let the fine print stand in the way of our being kind.

Like fickle crowds, we can find something wrong with everyone.

Wednesday, 9/16/15

Jesus saw that nothing would satisfy the crowd. They didn’t like John the Baptist because he neither ate nor drank. They didn’t like Jesus because he did eat and drank.

We can find something wrong with everyone. But shouldn’t the opposite of that be also true? If we tried, couldn’t we find something good about everyone?

I think older people might be kinder. I remember riding buses as a teenager, and looking around, having mean thoughts about everyone, like: “I bet that guy is always picking  his nose,” or “That woman probably chomps on their fruit when she is walking through Publix.”

Now, I think things like: “That man must be a pleasure to work with,” or, “Her grandchildren must really love that lady.”

Even if kind judgments don’t come automatically with age, we can curb our thinking that way. We can see everyone as God’s child, and as one who fights to overcome handicaps.

The sorrowful mother stood by the cross of her Son.

Tuesday, 9/15/15

Today we honor Our Lady for the sorrows she underwent. Many of us remember singing the Latin hymn “Stabat Mater.” We sang it as we joined in doing the Stations of the Cross. Let’s recall some of those verses, as we think of their English meaning.

Stabat mater dolorosa, juxta crucem lacrimosa, dum pendebat filius. The sorrowful mother stood weeping by the cross of her only Son.

Cujus animan gementum, contristatum et dolentum, pertransivit gladius. She felt a sword passing through that soul already full of grief and pain.

O quam tristus et aflicta, fuit illa benedicta mater unigeniti! O how sad and how afflicted was that mother of an only Son.

Quis est homo qui not fleret, matrem Christi si videbat natus poenas inclyti? What human would not weep with the mother of Christ seeing her son bent over in pain.

Jesus allowed himself to be lifted up on the cross.

Monday, 9/14/15

This day is observed as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. An exaltation is a “lifting up” and we are in doubt as to in what sense we celebrate its lifting up.

Emperor Constantine converted from paganism to Christianity in the year 315, and his mother St Helena celebrated the freeing of Christianity by going to Jerusalem in search of the sepulcher of Jesus. When she located the spot, she found that a temple to Aphrodite had been constructed over it.

She tore down the Temple of Aphrodite, and began the construction of the church of the Holy Sepulcher. The workmen, In digging for a foundation came upon three carefully preserved crucifix crossbars.

The story is that a dying woman was carried in to touch the beams, and on touching the third of them she was cured. To the present, segments of that beam are preserved as relics of the true cross.

There are three instances that are honored on this feast of the exaltation of the cross.

First, referring to today’s Gospel, we celebrate the fact that by the cross’s being lifted up, all men come to believe in Christ.

Secondly, it refers to John, 12:32, where Jesus said, “If I am lifted up, I will draw all men to me.”

Third, the lifting up of the cross might refer to the St. Helena’s finding of a remnant of the cross when she was building the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

What I remember on this day is those four Roman soldiers lifting the cross from the ground, after they had nailed Jesus to it.

They lifted it up, and with a terrible jolt for Jesus, they dropped its base into the hole they had dug for it.

We should think of the generosity of Jesus toward us. He gave himself to that pain, even though he always saw it coming, and could have avoided it.

Like the Apostles, we must come to see that Jesus is the Son of God.

Sunday, 9/13/15

Our Gospel today is from the Gospel according to Mark. The two halves of his sixteen chapters split right down the middle. The first eight chapters described how the Apostles slowly came to realize that Jesus is the Savior. The second eight chapters will show how he will save us by his suffering and death.

The question of how the Apostles slowly came to realize that Jesus was more than human, ties in with something I have been studying this week. I have been attending closely to the First Chapter of the Gospel according to John. Older Catholics will remember how up to forty years ago we read that chapter at the end of Mass.

I have taken eight phrases from that passage. With them we see how John, that beloved disciple, saw Jesus as the Son of God. Go through those eight phrases with me.

One: “In the beginning was the word” The ”Word” for the Greeks was no more than  our Mother Nature. It wasn’t really God.

Two: “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Here, John not only professes belief in God in heaven, he even hints at a Trinity.

Three: “All things came to be through him, and nothing was made without him.” We wonder how all things are made in God’s image. The answer to that might be that he  made all of nature to work together orderly.  Like, there is a divine order regulating the billions of cells in your body.

Four: “In him was life, and that life is the light of the world.” Just as all the energy expended throughout the solar system makes use only of energy coming from the sun, so the mental energy in our conscious moments all come from God.

Five: “To all who do accept him he gives the power to become his children.” God is not far from us. He is our father, and we can snuggle against him.

Six: “The Word became flesh.” Jesus shared our bodily functions. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been  tested in every way that we are.”

Seven: “He set up his tent with ours.” St. John patterned his Gospel on the Book of Exodus. Just as Moses led the Israelites to the Promised Land, Jesus leads us to heaven. Moses set up a meeting tent for them to meet with God. The body of Jesus is his tent where we can meet with him.

Eight: “While the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus.” 

Living your life in obedience to the word of Christ is like your life is a house you build on solid rock.

Saturday, 9/12/15

Our Lord tells us that if we live our lives in obedience to his words, we will be like those who built their house on solid rock. Just as that house will stand through  fierce storms, so will his words keep our lives upright through poverty, disease, and bouts of hatred.

Any time we have this Gospel I fall back on telling about the typhoon that hit our Korean coast in June of 1954.

Two boys, Peter and Paul, had been born and raised on the lands of the Benedictine Abbey in Waegwon, North Korea, in the nineteen-thirties and forties. In 1950, when Macarthur invaded Inchon, they fled south. Then, in the seesaw battles after that, our Marines won back a county north of the 38th parallel on Korea’s east coast. Peter and Paul and I settled in a town there in the late spring of 1954.

Peter and Paul had both picked up Catholic wives, and the four of them were sharing a single nine-by-nine room out of which the boys were running a radio repair business. They, then got me to join them in building a two-room house with a kitchen. We dug eight deep holes for corner posts. In them we dropped good-sized boulders that we brought up from the creek in a borrowed cart.

The boys got a Catholic carpenter to fit the uprights and crossbars together, Then, for the mud walls we forked out money to buy big spools of black market communication wire to weave between the uprights.

While Peter took his wife Theresa twenty miles south to have their firstborn, Paul and I slapped wet clay onto the weaved-wiring between the uprights. We went on then to tie down the roof thatching.

At the beginning of June we were hit by a major typhoon that took out the bridges and most of the houses on our coast.

The stream rushing down its valley took out the village where Theresa was awaiting  her baby, so she had to give birth holding on to a pine tree on the mountain side. But, the house we built stood firm; and we dedicated it with a party on June 29th, the feast day of Peter and Paul.

Have you friends with the name Timothy?

Friday, 9/11/15

St. Paul's affection for his disciple Timothy had me asking myself if I had ever known a Timothy whom I could call saintly. What I came up with was a Father Tim Connolly who once our superior in the Columban Fathers. I just looked up his name, and found that he had passed away in 1980. But it was back in 1947 that he became my hero. 

Back then I was just a seminary student with six more years of study ahead of me. But often after dinner in the evening when everyone liked getting out for a half hour walk, I would join the little group that liked walking with Father Tim.

I guess you could call his conversation light-hearted. He always 0sided with the little guy, rather than with those whom he referred to as "the brass."

Once our Father Tom Hanahoe was giving us a three day retreat, and it was terribly boring. On Sunday night, when we had resigned ourselves to another fifty of the same old stuff, we were delighted at having Father Tim Connolly come in. He said, "I had a bet with Tommy Hanahoe, and as you can see, I lost the bet."

He then asked us, "What is the main cause for priests going bad?"

He told us he had been asking that question all around, and he said, "Much to my surprise, an answer I got from two very fine men was that priests go bad when they are intentionally distracted when praying." He said it was a failing no one could detect. Then, looking for an example of that, he said that intentional daydreaming at prayer was like a little worm eating around and around in an apple until there is nothing left inside."

He had finished with his little example, when he suddenly had another thought. Enthusiastically he added, "It's only then that the worm sticks his head out, and the bishop sees him!"

In 1979 I visited Ireland, looking forward to seeing Father Tim in the priests retirement home. Someone told me Father Tim was sitting in the their lounge. The only one there was an expressionless man with a glass in his hand. I turned away, looking for Tim Connolly, and then I realized that this man was Tim Connolly. All of his wonderful wit was lost in that empty glass.

Although I never had much will power, I somehow managed to give up drinking thirty years ago, and it has given me extra healthy years. It's so sad to see how much the drink takes away from bright men.


Timothy ConnollyTimothWith the readings not furnishing me with a homily topic, I began foraging for ideas, and that had me wondering if the “Letter To Timothy” reminded me of any noteworthy Timothys.

The first three Timothys who came to my mind were Timothy O’Sullivan, Tim Broderick and Tim Connolly.

Timmy O’Sullivan, my high school classmate, was a sweet boy who was hopeless at studies. When we were doing Chemistry experiments together, Timmy, unable to follow our workbook, amused himself by taking a stick of Yellow Phosphorous, and smashing it in an empty matchbox. He was sitting at a soda counter after school when the thing blew up in his pocket, damaging both his right hand, and the coat of a lady sitting next to him.

Tim Broderick, at ninety, is a retired New York policeman. Along with sons who are most proud of him, Tim has countless people treasuring his friendship.

Tim Connolly was one of my superiors in the Columban Fathers. Whenever I saw him taking an after-dinner walk, I joined those with him. He always let on that he was a nobody, but he had a practical insight into anything that came up. Like one evening the group was asking why railroads were going bankrupt, and Father Connolly observed that they were the only transports who had to maintain their own roads. It hadn’t taken genius to see that, but I hadn’t seen it.   

In later years I heard older priests saying I reminded them of Tim Connolly, and I was proud of that. But, on a trip to Ireland in 1979 when I stopped by the priests’ retirement house I had to ask about an old priest sitting with a glass in his hand. Someone told me, “Why that’s Tim Connolly,” and that has made me very aware of how the drink can take away a man’s very sharp wit.

Have you ay friends named Timothy?

Friday, 9/11/15

With the readings not furnishing me with a homily topic, I began foraging for ideas, and that had me wondering if the “Letter To Timothy” reminded me of any noteworthy Timothys.

The first three Timothys who came to my mind were Timothy O’Sullivan, Tim Broderick and Tim Connolly.

Timmy O’Sullivan, my high school classmate, was a sweet boy who was hopeless at studies. When we were doing Chemistry experiments together, Timmy, unable to follow our workbook, amused himself by taking a stick of Yellow Phosphorous, and smashing it in an empty matchbox. He was sitting at a soda counter after school when the thing blew up in his pocket, damaging both his right hand, and the coat of a lady sitting next to him.

Tim Broderick, at ninety, is a retired New York policeman. Along with sons who are most proud of him, Tim has countless people treasuring his friendship.

Tim Connolly was one of my superiors in the Columban Fathers. Whenever I saw him taking an after-dinner walk, I joined those with him. He always let on that he was a nobody, but he had a practical insight into anything that came up. Like one evening the group was asking why railroads were going bankrupt, and Father Connolly observed that they were the only transports who had to maintain their own roads. It hadn’t taken genius to see that, but I hadn’t seen it.   

In later years I heard older priests saying I reminded them of Tim Connolly, and I was proud of that. But, on a trip to Ireland in 1979 when I stopped by the priests’ retirement house I had to ask about an old priest sitting with a glass in his hand. Someone told me, “Why that’s Tim Connolly,” and that has made me very aware of how the drink can take away a man’s very sharp wit.

The Catholic Church in which we were raised, put more emphasis on avoiding evil than on doing good.

Thursday, 9/10/15

Today’s readings prompt us to continue with a line of thought that came from yesterday’s readings. Namely, that the Catholic Church in which we were raised, put more emphasis on avoiding evil than on doing good. 

We were trained to examine our consciences each night, and to go to confession at least once a month. Above all, we had to stay in the state of grace.

There is nothing wrong with that; however, it was wrong for us to give most of our attention to avoiding evil, rather than to doing good.

Today’s readings are a reversal of that. While the Gospel tells us how to be good in our behavior with others, Paul implores us to be happy and holy within ourselves.

“Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness humility.”

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. . . Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.