December 9 2012
This past week, as Advent began, one of the daily readings included a passage from the Gospel
of St. Luke, Chapter 10, Verse 22. It reads, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one
knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.”
It got me to thinking about the story of a little boy beginning Catholic school. He was a first grade student and it
was his first day in religion class. The teacher asked all the children to draw a picture of something they had learned
about in Church. The little boy was drawing away diligently, his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth, trying to get
it just right. The teacher asked, “What are you drawing a picture of?” The boy replied, “I’m drawing a picture of God!”
“But, no one knows what God looks like,” said the teacher. The little boy responded, “They will when I get done.”
Let me ask you to take that story back two thousand years. The school is the home at Nazareth. The teachers are Mary and
Joseph. The child is Jesus. When he says, “They will when I get done,” it has special meaning. When Jesus completes his life,
his mission, people will know God in a special way. They will know him in a way they have never known him before because the
life of Jesus has revealed him.
We who make up the Body of Christ here on earth, who share in his ministry, should also reveal God by our lives. Do we? During this Advent Season let us reconcile ourselves with God. Let us take up the challenge, “They will when I get done.” And live in such a way as to reveal God’s love and compassion to others.
April 22, 2011
As we begin Easter week let’s take a look at a passage from the Gospel of
St. John beginning in Chapter 20 with verse 11. It is the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb.
When she came to the tomb she found it empty. She was probably confused. She peered inside and saw two angels.
The sight of two strangers may have been even more unnerving. When asked why she was weeping she replied,
“Because the Lord has been taken away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” His body must have been stolen.
Resurrection probably didn’t even cross her mind. It was impossible. Right?
Then she encountered Jesus. At first she still did not recognize him. This is an indication that
the resurrected body is somehow different. It is indeed glorified. But it is also somehow the same. When Jesus addressed
her by name she recognized him. She came to believe. What she thought was impossible had become a reality.
What does this mean for us? In the words of Clarence Hull, “Easter means you can put the
truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.” Jesus Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life,” will continue to rise
up again and again in our lives. Like Mary, recognizing the presence of the risen Lord may take some time. But, if we
continue to seek Him we will find he is there, probably in some way we do not expect, in some people we do not expect.
In seeking the truth we will find Him. Let us continue always to see truth, to thank God for His love for us, and to rejoice
that Jesus Christ is risen.
April 5, 2011
Some of you may remember a series on the A & E network called American
Castles. It spotlighted some of the great architectural masterpieces that were
at one time homes to people like the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers. They were
more like museums than homes. Each house was a showplace filled with treasures
from around the world; carvings, paintings, antiques, and woodwork. In fact
today most of them are museums.
In a passage of his Letter to the Ephesians St. Paul speaks of building
a holy temple, but he is not talking about a building. Instead he speaks of the
household of God, a temple built of living stones, “built upon the foundation of
the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.”
those living stones, real people with real joys and happiness and also real
doubts and fears. Think of the Gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 24 – 29. It is
the story of St. Thomas. After his resurrection Jesus had appeared to the
Apostles but Thomas was not with them. And Thomas refused to believe until he
could see Jesus for himself, “put his finger in the nailmarks” and his “hand
into his side.”
I believe that Thomas embodied the doubts that each of the
Apostles had before they experienced the risen Christ. I believe that he
embodies the doubts and fears that we struggle with until we experience the love
of the risen Christ in our lives. When we experience God's love our faith grows,
our spiritual home is built; not just a house, a home. We can help that happen
for one another by sharing God’s love.
Museums may be filled with beautiful and
interesting things, but it’s hard to imagine living in one. All those beautiful
things cannot give us love or life. A home, on the other hand, is filled with
life and love. It is meant to be lived in. It is a place where our joys can be
shared and our doubts and fears overcome. While we may admire museums and
showplaces, let us build a spiritual home to live in.
March 28, 2011
There is an interesting story about a young woman who was about to enter
religious life. Her friends were trying to dissuade her. She had had many
suitors the most recent of which had all the qualities the friends admired. They
asked, “Is he not chaste? Is he not handsome? Is he not wealthy? What more could
you ask?” In reply she held up a shoe and said, “Look at this shoe. Is it not
new? Is it not well made? Is it not expensive? Yet none of you can tell me where
it pinches me.” You see it wasn’t that the suitor was bad, but like the shoe
there was something that just wasn’t right.
Worldly life can be like that sometimes. Things are not really bad.
Sometimes we can identify the problem easily. At other times we may not even be
able to say just what is wrong, but we know something just isn’t quite right.
The Scriptures often invite us to look beyond where the world pinches, where we
experience suffering and difficulties, to the kingdom of heaven.
A good example is found in the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 18, verses
18 to 23. A man came to Jesus and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal
life?” Jesus answered, “You know the commandments, ‘You shall not commit
adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false
witness; honor your father and your mother.’” The man responded, “All of these I
have observed from my youth.” You see things weren’t really bad, but obviously
the man knew that something was not quite right in his life. What was it? Jesus
says, “There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and
distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come
follow me.” The man needed to make a commitment to the poor. He needed to look
beyond the Law of Moses and live the law of love.
“When he heard this he became quite sad for he was very rich.” The
Gospel never tells us if the man followed the advice of Jesus or not. It was
advice he didn’t want to hear. He clearly struggled with it. He could still go
either way. Isn’t it like that for us as well? The world pinches. We’re not sure
what to do and when we hear the advice of Sacred Scripture we’re not always
eager to follow it, yet like the man in the Gospel we are invited to look beyond
the world and ask, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I hope the man in
the story ultimately chose to follow Christ. Let us do the same by living the
law of love.
March 11, 2011
There once were two men who were discussing the merits of their
respective jobs. Bob said to his friend Jim, “So your job gives you independence
does it?” Jim replied, “It sure does. I can come in whenever I please … as long
as it’s before eight and I can leave whenever I want … as long as it’s after
To us listening in it is clear that Jim’s job not only gave him freedom
but limitations as well. Limitations are sometimes hard to accept especially
when we have no control over them, when they are imposed by others or merely the
circumstances of life. A good example is a person who must give up driving.
Maybe their reflexes are too slow or their eyesight too poor. The person can’t
control those things but they still chafe at the loss of freedom and
We can see that reflected in the Book of Tobit, chapter 2, verses 9 to
14. It is the story of Tobit’s blindness. He had developed cataracts and after
living a life of activity and service to others was reduced to living as an
invalid. It was a hard transition. He had to rely on his wife for support.
During the years of his blindness she worked weaving cloth. We can see Tobit’s
frustration flare up in verse 13. His wife had been paid and given a bonus, “a
young goat for the table.” Tobit’s assumed the worst, “Where did it come from?
Perhaps it is stolen. Give it back.”His wife responds angrily as well, “Where
are your good deeds now?” It was a stressful situation for both of them.
Often we have these situations in our lives as well. It’s hard to
accept our limitations gracefully, especially if we, like Tobit, have led a life
full of activity and service to others. We want to still do the same, but
remember every time someone shares God’s love by serving others there is another
person who receives the gift of God’s love. Sometimes we just have to be the
people who receive God’s love from others. We have to accept our limitations. We
have to give others the same opportunity to minister that we ourselves have
enjoyed. We have to let them minister to us. During the season of Lent let us
strive to grow in holiness by both giving and receiving God’s love.
March 7, 2011
By and large the Acts of the Apostles relates the exploits of Sts.
Peter and relates the exploits of Sts.
Peter and Paul. However there were others who also contributed to the growth of
Christianity. One of those individuals, St. Barnabas, was a companion of St.
Paul in many of his travels. As we can see in chapter 11 Barnabas played a
significant role in establishing the church at Antioch.
Consider verses 19 – 26. Because of the martyrdom of St. Stephen and
the persecution that followed, many of the believers were scattered far and
wide. Some came to Antioch where they began to speak of Christ, not only to
Jews, but also to the Greeks, the gentiles. Verse 22 tells us, “News of this
came to the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.” Barnabas
was so happy to see that the faith had taken hold that, even in this time of
persecution, “he exhorted them to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast
purpose.” He didn’t do it alone. He went off and found Saul (St. Paul) and the
two of them met with the church and continued to encourage them for a whole
The role of encouraging others in the faith during times of trial seems
particularly appropriate to Barnabas. His name means “son of consolation.” In
Antioch he brought consolation and encouragement to a troubled world. To a world
of despair he brought hope. To a world of sin he brought God’s forgiveness. He
did so by sharing the love of Jesus Christ with the people. He was set apart for
that very purpose.
Like Barnabas we are set apart … by our Baptism. We do not have to
carry the name “son of consolation,” but we must carry on the mission of
bringing God’s love and consolation to those in need of it. Unlike Barnabas we
are not sent to remote parts of the world. We can carry on the mission where we
live and work by working for justice and mercy. May we fulfill our part of the
mission of Christ by bringing His love and consolation to a troubled world.
February 25, 2011
In statues or paintings St. Joseph is often pictured holding, if
not the Christ child or his carpenter’s tools, a budding lily stalk. This
symbol, like many others, has no basis in Scripture, but comes from a legend
that has sprung up around the particular saint. In the case of St. Joseph legend
has it that Zechariah the high priest, after being approached by an angel, told
Mary that the Lord would choose a husband for her from among a group of
marriageable men. Each of the suitors left his staff in the temple overnight.
When morning came the staff of Joseph was found to have bloomed while those of
the other suitors were barren. While this can be called a pious legend with no
supporting evidence it contains within it a clear truth, Joseph was chosen by
God for his role as husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus.
Just look at the story of the birth of Christ in chapter 1 of the
Gospel of St. Matthew, verses 18 – 24. The story that Matthew relates highlights
Joseph’s compassion. When Mary was “found with child” Joseph was going to
“divorce her quietly.” Why quietly? She would be suspected of adultery a crime
punishable by stoning. Joseph did not wish “to expose her to shame.” That’s an
understatement. He wanted to protect her from the force of the law. He must have
loved her deeply. Yet this “quiet divorce” never happened. God intervened, “the
angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” and advised him to take Mary into
his home. God chose Joseph. It was through his cooperation that the prophecy of
Isaiah was fulfilled, “the virgin shall be with child and bear a son. And they
shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
Along with the qualities of compassion and love Joseph also exhibits
the quality of trust. He was asked to accept what amounted to a ludicrous
situation. He chose to put his trust in God and, while he must have faced many
challenges and problems, was rewarded with the gift of Jesus Christ.
We are also chosen by God. We may not be chosen in a spectacular way.
No angel may appear, but like Joseph we are called to a special place in the
family of God. We are invited to play our own small part in God’s plan for the
salvation of the world. In spite of the challenges we face let us place our
trust in God and share his love and compassion with one another.
February 18, 2011
There once was a minister who was given a new assignment. Because he
only had a short time to move he engaged a group of parishioners to help him
pack his things. At one point the minister, realizing how many things he had
acquired over the years, commented on the size of the job and the number of
things he had to take with him. One of his helpers said, “Well, there’s one
thing you can’t take.” The minister asked what that happened to be. His helper
replied, “Your influence.”
We influence others, not only by what we say, but especially by what we
do. The example we give can be very important. That is a message that is
contained in the First Letter of St. Peter. In chapter five Peter addresses his
fellow presbyters, but his advice applies to all of us. He says, “Do not Lord it
over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock” (verse 3). His message
is simple, lead by exhortation and encouragement not by force.
Peter writes later in verse twelve, “I write you this … exhorting you
and testifying that this is the true grace of God.” You see Peter actually gives
them an example in himself of what he has just advised. In this way they have
both the words and his actions to guide them.
We also have the example of St. Peter to guide us, but his advice is
not always easy to put into practice. We tend to want to force people into
accepting our own views, but if this happens at all, it is usually only a short
term change. Good example can begin a true change of heart in a person. Think
back to a teacher, a relative, or a co-worker who you really admired. Maybe you
wanted to be like them. They had the means of changing your view of the world.
Their influence helped to mold your thought and your very being.
Each of us has power to do the same for the people we encounter.
Whether we realize it or not we can influence them by the way we live - for
better or worse. May the example we give always be for the good.
February 13, 2011
Many years ago in the early days of her career Katherine Hepburn was in a
show called “The Lake.” She received a scathing review in which one critic said,
“She ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.” Obviously he thought she showed
almost no range of emotion. This could never be said of St. Paul. We can see
that in the story of his conversion which we find in chapter 22 of the Acts of
Paul set the tone himself by saying, “I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in
Celicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according
to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all
are this day.” When Paul said he was zealous he was not kidding. He went on to
elaborate, “I persecuted this Way to the death…”
In pursuit of his mission he
was on his way to Damascus when he was knocked from his horse by a bolt of
lightning and blinded. He was accepted somewhat reluctantly by Ananias who cared
for him until his sight was restored. As his story unfolded we found that the
scales fell from his eyes at least metaphorically. He recognized the presence of
Christ through his experience and began to preach Christ with the same zeal that
he had used to persecute the early church.
The emotion that St. Paul shows was probably also present in the
Apostles. They were swept up in the knowledge of the resurrection. They faced
opposition just as St. Paul faced when he was arrested and forced to defend
himself. With that zeal they overcame the world of their day and built the
We may not have the emotion and zeal of St. Paul but with dedication we
can carry the good news of Jesus Christ into the world today.
January 27, 2011
There once was a man who decided that each year for his
vacation he would tour at least one of our national parks. After he had seen Yosemite
and most of the other large parks he came one year to Mammoth Cave National Park.
The tour guide took his party down into the cave and as was the custom the guide
asked that all lights be turned off. They were deep in the cave and it was pitch
black. The eyes of the tourists tried to adjust but there simply was no light to
adjust to. Then the guide lit a match. It seemed to light the entire cave.
This is what Jesus does. He is the light to the world.
He brings that light to people in darkness. Consider the short parable of the lamp
in chapter 5 of the Gospel of St. Mark. Beginning with verse 21 Jesus says, “Is
a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to
be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.”
These words were spoken to the Apostles. Jesus concluded
by saying, “He who has ears ought to hear.” He had made the love of the Father visible
in the world. Like Jesus the Apostles were to carry that love with them to bring
hope to the people; to bring light into their lives.
Through the Apostles we share in that same mission. We
may not light up the whole world, but we can light our little part of it. We all
know people who sit in darkness. It may be the darkness of depression, of grief,
of illness, of loneliness. Take a minute to light up the world for them. In accepting
our part of the mission let us support them with God’s love.
January 20, 2011
This Monday, January 24th is the annual “March for Life.”
While the primary focus of the march is the effort to overturn the “Roe vs. Wade”
Supreme Court ruling allowing virtually unrestricted abortion in this country, it
is good for us to remember that the ideal of the sanctity of life from conception
to natural death includes many other life issues. “Roe vs. Wade” simply opened the
door to the devaluing of human life in many other ways. One particularly troubling
example in recent years is the number of states that have introduced legislation
to legalize euthanasia.
Let us reflect for a moment on a passage from the second letter of St. Paul to the
Corinthians. Beginning in chapter 4, verse 16 Paul writes “Therefore, we are not
discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is
being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us
an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen
but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”
So often in today’s world “suffering” is seen as a four
letter word. If we have a pain there must be a drug to relieve it. All illness must
have a cure. If it doesn’t we must find one. Euthanasia is sometimes seen as an
answer to the problem, a way to stop the suffering. St. Paul reminds us that it
is sometimes (though not always) through physical suffering that we grow spiritually.
This is true, not only of the person who is sick but of those who must extend themselves
to care for the sick. Theologically this is called redemptive suffering. We unite
our suffering with the suffering of Christ for the salvation of the world. Those
who have a terminal illness can become spiritually stronger in and of themselves.
They can become an inspiration to others. They can help to bring salvation to the
world. The final illness of Pope John Paul II is a good example. His life proved
valuable to the very end. The ideal of the sanctity of life was shown in a tangible
While we cannot ignore suffering, neither should we ignore
its value. Instead, like Pope John Paul, let us put it to use for the salvation
of the world.
January 13, 2011
On Monday January 24th, the March for Life will be held
in Washington, D. C. All over the country people will pray for a reversal
of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court Decision, an end to abortion and euthanasia, and
the dignity of life. One of the many Scripture passages that come to mind is MT
2:16-18, the death of the Holy Innocents: When Harod saw he had been tricked by
the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and
around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, according to the time that he
had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the
‘A voice was heard in Ramah
wailing and loud lamentation,
weeping for her children;
She refused to be consoled,
Because they are no more.’ ”
We might wonder what this prophecy is all about. The references
to Rachel and Ramah are significant. Both remind us of tragedy. Ramah was a town
near Jerusalem. After the defeat of the Israelites by the Babylonians it is thought
that the exile began there. Jeremiah, himself, was held captive there. Thus Ramah
was a place of national grief. It is also thought to be the burial place of Rachel,
wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, who died in childbirth there. In
this way it is also a symbol of personal grief.
Certainly we pray for all lives that have ended unjustly.
In a special way we pray for the Holy Innocents of today whose lives have been ended
by abortion. Unfortunately we often forget the other victims of abortion, the mothers
of those children. Often they have been told things like, “it’s a simple procedure,”
or “when it’s over you can get on with your life.” It just isn’t so. It’s not so
easy to get on with your life when a part of it is lost. The death of a child is
also the death of a part of the mother. Grief is a part of that loss. In many cases
there is “wailing and lamentation,” weeping that may last for years to come. We
may not hear it but it goes on within the mother.
As we continue to pray for the Holy Innocents of today
let us pray also for peace of mind and soul for the victims left behind to mourn
January 6, 2011
You may remember the famous pianist, Arthur Rubenstein. He was
once asked if he could get a ticket for a friend at one of his concerts. As it happened
the concert was sold out, but Rubenstein made an offer to his friend, “Alas, I have
only one seat at my disposal, but you are welcome to it.” The friend asked, “Where
is the seat?” Rubenstein replied, “On the piano bench.” Suddenly his friend had
second thoughts. It would be one thing to watch the performance, but he was reluctant
to have to take part in it.
This is the tough thing about being a Christian as well.
Followers of Christ cannot merely sit back and watch the performance. Every one
of us is called to take an active part. Look, for example, at the passage about
the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Mark 6: 34 - 44. When the Apostles
approached Jesus asking that the people be sent away to buy food the first thing
Jesus did was to invite them to “give them some food yourselves.” I’m reasonably
sure that Jesus knew that the task was beyond them. After all they said it would
take “two hundred days wages.” Nonetheless the invitation to be a part of His mission
was there. Even after the five loaves and two fish were brought forward Jesus did
not act alone. He “said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples
to set before the people; He also divided the two fish among them all.”
Jesus could certainly have provided for the people without
the help of His disciples, but He did not. The disciples were asked to do their
part. They had to bring the loaves and fishes to Jesus. They had to help in the
distribution of the food. They had to put into practice the command to “love one
another.” They didn’t provide many loaves or fish but Jesus turned their small contribution
into great miracle.
The same is true for us. Our gifts and talents may not
seem to be very large. We may think that the problems of today’s world or the challenges
we face in our daily lives are too momentous. It would be useless for us to even
try. That’s probably what the disciples thought at first, but God made their gifts
more than sufficient to meet the needs of the moment. God can do the same for us.
With our small input God can do great things. Let us put our talents at His disposal
rather than simply watch the performance.
December 23, 2010
There is a story told about a second grade girl who, along
with the rest of her class, was asked by the teacher to draw a picture of anything
they wanted. As the teacher was looking at the various works in progress she came
to the little girl and asked, “What are drawing?” The girl answered, “I’m drawing
a picture of God.” The teacher responded, “No one knows what God looks like.” Proudly
the girl concluded, “They will when I’m done.”
You know we may not know exactly what God looks like, but through Jesus we have
access to the Father. Consider this passage in the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 10,
verses 21 – 24. Jesus rejoiced saying, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven
and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike …No one knows the Son except the Father
and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wishes to
God was a never seen in personal terms until the coming
of Christ. People understood God in more mysterious, mystical ways. But having a
relationship with God, other than the Master/Slave relationship, was unheard of.
Jesus changed that. As “God made man” He revealed the Father in human terms. The
apostles were the first to see it happen, but far from the last. Through them, and
their successors, we reap the benefits.
St. Luke tells us that it takes more than intellectual
prowess, more than theological knowledge to know God. It takes the simple love seen
in the example of the little girl in the story above. If we allow Christ to be a
part of our lives, if we live His love by sharing that love with one another, we
get to know the Father. We may not have a picture of Him, but we get to know Him
nonetheless. As we celebrate Christmas let us strive to live that love and get to
know God a little better.
December 18, 2010
Proverbs are supposed to be gems of wisdom, but if you’ve
ever taken time to think about some of the proverbs you’ve heard over the years
you’ll come to realize that many of them seem to oppose each other. For example,
“Many hands make light work” and “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” This is because
while these seeming opposites both carry a grain of truth, they have their fullest
meaning only in the context of a situation. Unless we know the situation we cannot
hope to understand the full meaning. And sometimes an even fuller meaning appears
when we look at both proverbs together.
If we take passages out of context they may very well seem to be in opposition.
Let me give you a practical example. In chapter 30, verse 18 of the Book of the
Prophet Isaiah we read, “the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who
wait for him.” This theme of waiting is repeated frequently, not only in Isaiah,
but in many of the books of the prophets as well as the Gospels. However it is not
universal. Look, for example at the Gospel of St Matthew. At the beginning of chapter
2 we see that “wise men from the East came to Jerusalem.” They were seeking the
new born king. They saw his star rising and did not wait, but came to him. The same
is true throughout the ministry of Jesus. In chapter 15, beginning with verse 20
we see the story of the Canaanite woman who “came” to Jesus because her daughter
was possessed. This was not an isolated incident. Many who were in need of healing
came to Jesus.
What is the difference in these two approaches? For one
thing the period of waiting is needed when the Lord for whom we are waiting has
not yet come. Those who sought Him out recognized His presence among them. So …
should we wait or should we seek Him? In a sense we should do both. We wait for
the second coming of Christ at the end of time. We also recognize that from the
time of His birth Christ was present among His people and continues to be present
to us today through His Church and through the Sacraments. If Jesus is present among
us we should seek Him. We should seek Him in one another for we are made in His
image. We will find Him every time we share His love with one another. This is why
we might call Advent a season of “active waiting.” We wait, but we do not only wait,
we seek at the same time. Let these final days of Advent be a time when we wait
(patiently or impatiently) for the celebration of the feast of Christmas, but also
a time when we actively strive to seek God by sharing His love.
December 9, 2010
There is a story told about a Bridge tournament that was
being held in New York City. Two women partnered for the tournament were playing
in the second round when one of them made a bad misplay. Later her partner asked,
“did you lead that card from strength of weakness?” “Neither,” the woman replied,
“I led that card from ignorance.” en we act out of ignorance. On the other hand
we can’t possibly know everything either. No one does.
We seem to go through life acting upon our limited knowledge. In order to make good
decisions we must be either extremely well informed or we must rely on the knowledge
of God and others. It is good to do both. We should make important decisions using
all the knowledge at our disposal while also trusting in God. The prophet Isaiah,
whose writings are a mainstay of the Advent Season, says, “those who hope in the
Lord will renew their strength.”
Especially during Advent we are invited by Sacred
Scripture to put our trust in God, to renew our strength. Take for example the short
passage of verses 28-30 in chapter eleven of the Gospel of St. Matthew, “Come to
me, all who labor and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” But we may
ask how we are to be refreshed when we read the rest of the passage. “Take my yoke
upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your
souls will find rest for my yoke is easy and my burden light.” How are we to be
refreshed with the yoke on our shoulders? How are we to be refreshed carrying the
First think about the yoke. It is placed on the animals
going out to work. It is used to control and guide the team of animals. Spiritually
this is necessary. We must go out and work to build up the kingdom of God. That
will only happen to its full potential if we, the team, are all moving in the same
direction. God will guide us if we put our trust in Him, but how can the burden
be light? It is light because, when we are guided by God, Jesus is there to help
us carry the burden. He does even more. He strengthens us for the tasks ahead.
We may not have all the answers, but if we must act with
a certain amount of ignorance, let it not be ignorance of God. Let us put our trust
in Him so that, in the words of Isaiah, we may run and not grow weary, that we may
soar like an eagle – right into the kingdom of God in heaven.
December 2, 2010
Have you ever watched children playing “King of the Hill?”
It’s a simple game. The child at the top of the hill is king. All the others try
to knock him off; dethrone him so that they can be king. The one at the top has
an advantage. It’s easier to defend the high ground. came from real life. It came
from watching would-be kings fight for power. It came from watching those kings
build their castles in high places. The mountain became a place of power.
Not only was it easier to defend, it was also easier to keep an eye on what was
going on in the kingdom down below. It was easier to control trade routes and collect
When the authors of Sacred Scripture use the image of the
mountain the people would have realized all these advantages. For example, look
at chapter 25 of the book of the prophet Isaiah. Beginning in verse six Isaiah speaks
of the mountain of the Lord of hosts. He says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines … On this mountain
he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all
nations; he will destroy death forever.” Imagine it. God can wipe away all tears,
provide for all people and even destroy death. In the Gospels, when Jesus ascends
the mountain he is going to a place of power. A typical example is seen in Matthew,
chapter 15, verse 29 and following. Jesus went up on the mountain. There he “healed
the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.” He fed the four thousand
with only a few loaves of bread. The prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled before
the very eyes of the people.
Do you want to be great? Do you ever want to be king of
the hill? It is in service that we find greatness. He who would be first must be
last, the servant of all. Follow the example of Jesus. Look to the needs of others.
It is by following His example that we can truly prepare our hearts for the celebration
of Christ’s birth.
November 25, 2010
You may have heard the story of scientist who had heard reports
that a dinosaur was seen alive in the jungles of South America. He thought the rumors
were worth checking out so he got a flight into the Amazon. He followed his guide
to the place where it had been sighted. He met the native who had first reported
Unfortunately, by the time he arrived he found that the animal was already dead.
It was not a dinosaur but it was a huge beast. He asked the native about it and
was told that he had killed it. The scientist asked, “It is so big, how did you
kill it?” The native said, “With my club.” In wonder he responded, “How big is your
club?” “There are about a hundred of us,” said the native. of the story, of course,
is that there is strength in unity. That was important for the members of the early
Church as well. After the death and resurrection of Jesus the mission to spread
the Gospel fell to the Apostles and disciples. They were a relatively small group
of men. Yet in a few centuries the faith spread over the known world. How they began
the task that seemed so large is told in the book known as the “Acts of the Apostles.”
Interestingly enough relatively few of the disciples are
mentioned. There are a few exceptions such as St. Stephen and St. Philip. Most of
the book centers on the exploits of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul. Their
wisdom and energy drove the expansion of the fledgling church. Look at Chapter 22
for an example. In it St. Paul has been arrested and is making his defense. He stresses
his zeal, both in persecuting the church before his conversion and supporting it
after his conversion. St. Paul had the energy to inspire others, but he seldom traveled
alone. He had his trusted companions like Barnabas who was with him in Iconium as
we see in chapter 14. St Peter too had companions as we see at the beginning of
Chapter 3 when he and John heal a crippled beggar, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
In these examples we see the means of their success. The
faith still has worlds to conquer today. With zeal, united with one another, and
with the help of God let us share our faith with the world.
November 18, 2010
The story is told of a Sunday School teacher who asked
her students to tell the story of the prodigal son in their own words. On reaching
the point where the son hires himself out to tend the swine one little boy said,
“He didn’t even get to eat the pig’s food. First he had to sell his coat to buy
food. Next came his shirt. He sold it to buy more food. But he was still hungry.
He came down to his undershirt and sold it to buy food. Then he came to himself.”
That little boy stumbled upon a pretty good definition of conversion. The
sinner comes to himself. He awakens to the need for change. This is the message
that Jesus repeats over and over again. Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand. Turn
away from sin.
The story of the prodigal son in chapter 15 of the Gospel
of Luke is actually the third in a series of related parables. The first is the
lost sheep. The second is the lost coin. The third might well be titled the lost
son. These parables have several notable things in common. First is the length to
which the individuals are willing to go for the one that is lost. The shepherd leaves
the ninety-nine in the desert to look for the one. The woman searches the entire
house for a small coin. The father gives half his estate to the son who squanders
it and still welcomes him back.
The second thing that all these parables have in common
is the joy that is seen upon the recovery of the one that was lost. In every instance,
whether it is the shepherd, the woman, or the father, a party is given to celebrate
the return of the one that was lost.
The people expend, what might seem to us, ridiculous amounts
of time and energy. That’s the very point. God’s love for us is that great. His
forgiveness is that great. His mercy is that great. He is ridiculously generous.
He is willing to go to any length to get us back in the family even when we squander
opportunities for grace. Even when the sin is great God wants us back. When we find
ourselves falling into sin let us come to ourselves, remember God’s great love,
and return to Him.
November 11, 2010
There once was a man who took his car to a mechanic. He
complained, “It knocks when I get it up to eighty.” The mechanic, who had looked
the car over responded, “I don’t see nothing wrong with it. It must be the Good
Lord a warnin’ you.” He could just as well have said, “Change the way you drive,
slow down.” from God, “repent, change your life.”
A good example, though a very complex one, is seen in the book of Revelation. Beginning
with chapter two we see the seven letters to the seven churches. I say this is a
complex example for several reasons. The Book of Revelation is considered Apocalyptic
Literature. By nature this is a literature filled with symbolism. Numerology was
in common use at the time and often the numbers represented something. In this case
the number “seven”, for example, means “total” or “all.” So while the messages may
have been written to specific churches their messages may be meant for “all” Christian
communities. Each of the letters follows a pattern. First the community is commended
for its strengths. Then it is reprimanded for its sins. Setting aside the specific
arguments and looking only at this pattern we can see that the individual messages
are very similar. To each community it is written, “You are good people, but don’t
think you’re perfect. Sin is still a part of your life. There is room for improvement.
Repent. Love one another.”
This is the same warning that the Book of Revelation sends
to us. Even though we may be good people we should not be lulled into thinking that
we are sinless. Let us never fail in our obligation to love one another.
November 4, 2010
There is an old adage that we hear often in the insurance
industry, “The man, who fails to plan, plans to fail.” Planning is important. Whenever
possible we plan major events in our lives. In our younger years we plan for college
and a career. As we grow older we plan for retirement.
It was no different for the people of Jesus’ day. Just
look at the story of the dishonest steward at the beginning of chapter 16 of the
Gospel of St. Luke. He was reported to his master for his indiscretions. The master
demanded a final accounting. So the steward, knowing that his service would soon
come to an end, made a plan. He invited his master’s debtors to come in for a meeting
and reduced their debts. In this way he attempted to secure their friendship so
that they would care for him when he was fired. The really interesting part of the
story is that the steward was commended by his master “for his prudence.”
If we’re not careful when we read this passage we might
get the impression that Jesus is extolling dishonesty. That is far from the case.
He is extolling creativity in dealing with a difficult situation and He is challenging
the people to use that same creativity in deepening their spiritual lives.
Too often our spiritual lives drift aimlessly while we
deal with day to day problems. Why? Because we know that failure to deal with the
day to day problems will result in consequences and sometimes very nasty consequences.
Remember that the same is true in our spiritual lives. It is even worse. Failure
in our spiritual lives can have eternal consequences. So take time out to pray and
to spend time with Christ. Take time to put the corporal works of mercy into action
by caring for those in need. Let us plan for spiritual success by being imitators
October 28, 2010
A humorist once wrote this definition, “Advice is something
most of us give … until it hurts.” How accurate he was. Sometimes
the advice is solicited; sometimes it is unsolicited. It may be good or bad. It
may be given freely or we may pay experts for it. Sometimes the advice we get is
biased by the feelings of the person giving it. The one thing we can be sure of
is that any time we attempt something we will get lots of advice. The trick is to
distinguish good advice from bad advice.
Let’s look at the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 13, verses
10 – 17. Here we find the story of a crippled woman healed on the Sabbath by Jesus.
She was “bent over, completely incapable of standing upright.” Jesus took pity on
her, spoke to her, laid his hands on her, and she “stood up straight and glorified
God.” This is where the leader of the Synagogue began to give advice. That was his
job, to help interpret the law for them. But his advice is more like scolding, “There
are six days on which work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on
the Sabbath Day.” It was bad advice, biased by the feelings of rancor that he had
for Jesus. He, like Jesus, knew that exceptions were being made, that people did
important things on the Sabbath. He didn’t let that stop him he gave … till it hurt.
It hurt the very people he was supposed to help. Jesus, on the other hand, gave
them good advice. Treat people with compassion. He reminded them that they would
do no less for their beasts of burden. His message is clear. To truly live the Mosaic
Covenant, treat other people with love and mercy. Treat them as you would want to
This is also good advice for the children on the New Covenant,
for us. Imitate the love of Christ in our lives. If we want to give till it hurts,
give compassion, mercy, and love.
October 21, 2010
There once were two men who were best friends from childhood.
One went on to be a priest, the other an attorney. One day the attorney received
a request from his friend to draw up a will for him. All the details were provided.
When the job was completed the priest received a note advising him that it was that
all was in readiness for his approval. The attorney could not resist the creative
impulse. He wrote in the note, “Stop in on Tuesday, ‘Thy will be done.’” awyer jokes,
and most of them are not as genial as this. Many portray lawyers as unscrupulous.
Undoubtedly, as with any profession, there are some bad lawyers. There are also
many good ones who can guide us through the quagmire of law. They help us make sense
of the hundreds of provisions which often seem contradictory and confusing.
That was true of Jewish law as well. There were literally
hundreds of precepts. It was complex. Unfortunately some of the very attorneys who
were supposed to help people cope with those complexities stood in their way. These
are the ones that Jesus addresses beginning with verse 45 of the Gospel of Luke,
“Woe to you … you impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do
not lift one finger to touch them.” Jesus was accusing them of negligence of their
duty to assist others.
Is this true for us? Do we stand in the way of others coming
to the faith? Are we willing to share our experience of Christ’s love, mercy, and
forgiveness? St. Paul reminded the Ephesians that “it is through Christ’s love,
the shedding of His blood, that we are redeemed and our sins forgiven.” Jesus Christ
has opened the way. His sacrifice was an act of pure love. We must not be people
who close that way to others. May we never be accused by God of negligence in our
duty to help others experience God’s love.
October 14, 2010
There is a story that is told about a pupil approaching
a sage and asking for advice, “How can I become a good conversationalist?” The wise
man held up his hand, stopping the young man and said, “Listen, my son.” After some
time had passed the pupil said, “I am listening, father … continue your instruction.”
The sage responded, “There is no more to tell.”
To be a good conversationalist a person must be a good
listener. Listening well seems to be a lost art, but it is a skill that can and
should be cultivated. Too often a conversation consists of two people speaking to
each other but not listening. If we watch them we can almost see them preparing
their response before they have heard what the other person has to say.
This is true in our spiritual lives as well as in our earthly
lives. Most of us take time to speak to God in prayer, but too often we do not take
time to listen for His response. We must listen to God speaking to us. Jesus frequently
advises his disciples to listen to God speaking to them. In each of the Gospels
of Matthew, Mark, and Luke we see the phrase “whoever has ears ought to hear” used
at least twice. A specific example occurs in chapter 13 of the Gospel of St. Matthew.
Jesus expounds upon the parable of the seed that fell on good ground producing much
fruit, “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” Mark, referring to the same parable in
chapter 4, uses the phrase “thirty or sixty or a hundredfold.” No matter the order
of the phrasing the message is clear. We must prepare the soil of our hearts to
receive God’s word. The problem is that we cannot do so without listening. To use
an Old Testament expression we must not “harden our hearts.” This is worse than
being unaware of God speaking. It is a refusal to listen.
When a couple is going through a tough time in their marriage
a counselor will often say, “Listen to one another. If you want a good marriage,
listen to one another.” If you want a good relationship with God, “Listen.” In prayer
take time to rest in silence and let Him speak. Give yourself time to hear, for
“he who has ears ought to hear.”