Tuesday, February 21, 2017


                                                    An Unconventional Life

Jesus said, “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.” (Mt 5:39)  Commentators tell us that being struck on the right cheek meant that the perpetrator used the back of his hand to strike the victim.  That would have been a huge insult which invariably would have started a fist fight.    

To most people in Jesus’ day, turning the other cheek was laughable.  More committed people might not have laughed, but they certainly would have winced.

Jesus was an unconventional person.  He touched lepers.  He cast out demons.  He raised the dead. He cured the blind and the lame.  He told us to love our enemies.  He turned over the tables in the Temple.  He forgave the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross.  He did these unconventional things out of love.  And conventional people killed Him.

Jesus is our role model.  He wants us to do what He did.

Name some unconventional things you've done out of love.  Name a person you admire, who does unconventional things out of love.  Have you or they suffered because of it?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


                                                       Rigidity or Gray Areas

I read a story about a child who was called ‘the attorney general’ by her extended family. After being told that she could only ride her bike in the driveway, she posed several questions. “If I go over the crack between the driveway and the road, does that count?   And if my shadow crosses the line, does that count?” *

The child’s idea was that she needed to rigidly comply with the rule. But her parents idea was to make sure she would be safe.    

For a long time I approached God’s commandments like that little ‘attorney general’. As a result I missed seeing God’s love for me/us as the underpinning of all God’s laws. 

When we see God’s love as the root of the law, then it gets easier to understand that rigidity is not always the goal.  As Pope Francis says: “There has to be room for some ‘gray areas'.” And, of course, that describes Jesus’ approach to the laws He observed…but sometimes didn’t…like healing or feeding people on the Sabbath Day.

Name laws that demand rigid compliance.  I can only think of two.  Can you guess which two I’m thinking of?  When did you understand the idea of gray areas in making choices?  Think of a recent choice you made that fell into a ‘gray area’.

*Sr. Mary McGlone for Celebration: Preaching Resources, 02/12/17  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


                                                                    Salt

Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth.  If salt looses its taste…it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)

Listen to this.  In Jesus’ day, salt was added to camel and donkey dung to form fuel patties for their cooking ovens.  The salt gave off sparks which kept the fire burning. When the salt lost its ‘sparkiness’.  It was good for nothing but to be shoveled out onto muddy walkways.  Then the ovens were re-stocked with new fuel patties.  

In this light,  Jesus asks us to be sparks. Sparks that energize faith and keep the fire of love burning within and among us.     

Recently I offered a ‘Culver’s challenge at St. Patrick’s Parish.  The question: Who said, ‘God has cast down the mighty and lifted up the lowly?’  Only Elias, a 12 year old server, knew that it was Mary.  His response buoyed me. It left me thinking that our church is in good hands with young people like Elias.  So he was a spark for me.  

Think of a person who recently sparked your faith or who sparks your faith community. How do you spark the fire of God’s love in others?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


                                                                    Secrets

There’s an interesting story in Mark’s Gospel (5:25-34). It is about a woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years.  That meant she was unclean and that every person or thing she touched was considered unclean too … for all that time.   And for all that time she lived a secret life.  In a crowd of people she touched Jesus and she was cured.

Jesus felt ‘power’ go out of Him and He turned around to look for the person who touched Him.  When Jesus saw her, she came to Jesus “in fear and trembling” and she told Him everything. 

That poor woman carried her secret with her for 12 years.  And she hoped she could be cured in secret too.  But her secrets were now known to Jesus and He healed her body and her troubled soul.  What a relief for her!  No more secrets.

Do you have some secrets that you have carried for a long time?  Do they trouble you?  Would you be embarrassed if they were made known?  Say them aloud to Jesus in a prayer. And be at peace.  He has always known them and He has always loved you anyway.    

Saturday, January 28, 2017


                                      Stay Awake! The Lord Is Coming
                                                                11-29-16

The Lord is always coming into our lives. But I rarely notice it except in hindsight.  Only then do I wake up and see where God was. Take, for example, Thanksgiving Day.

Before mass at Siena Center, a Dominican Leader announced that Sr. Agnes had just died. There was an audible sigh at that news. Sharing the sign of peace, I shook the hand of a Sister who simply sobbed. Another Sister came to hold her hand until mass ended. Then the bereft Sister thank the one who consoled her.  And they hugged.  God was there.

At 1:00pm we ate at my brother’s house. Susan, my sister-in-law, also invites her sister and their family to the meal.  I asked one of their sons what he does now. He said: “I teach first grade in special education and, after school, I tutor a 17 year old autistic boy”. I was stunned, realizing that all 4 children and their mom are involved in the same things. God is in that family. 

Ready to go home, I said my ‘good-byes’ and Susan gave me a ‘care package’. Ham, turkey, 2 pieces of pumpkin pie and freshly made dinner rolls. She not only makes the meal and deals with the aftermath, she also sends food home with us.  She’s a gem.  God is in her too.

Where was God in your Thanksgiving?  In what people and/or situations have you seen God in the last day or two?


                                                               My Best Christmas
                                                                      12-06-16

My best Christmas comes down to a few words from my dad.  It was 1990 and the first time we were together for Christmas in 5 years.  (I’d been working the the Dominican Republic during those previous years.)

After opening the gifts we were talking about our family.  In that context, dad shared one of his regrets.  His regret was spending very little time with my older brother and me when we were kids.  He had a full time day job and he worked part time three nights a week and every other weekend.  Not much time or energy to play ball with us.   

I’d felt that void with my dad for a long time.  We weren’t very close.  But his regret moved me.  It meant that he understood what had happened. His regret was an act of love. It was an unexpected gift that really touched my heart.  So, out my 68 Christmases, that was the best one.        

Isn’t it amazing that a few unexpected words would make such a difference?  What unexpected thing could you say to someone this Christmas time?  Touching someone’s heart with honest loving words is more valuable than a new laptop or a piece of jewelry or a fancy dinner.  And if words fail you, just give the gift of your time.
                                                         

                                        
                                         Take Fewer Things for Granted…
                                                             12-13-16

I recently heard an interview with Brother David Steindl-Rast on NPR.  The program was On Being.  Brother David’s focus was ‘Joy”.  In that context he said, “If you take fewer things for granted, you will increase your joy.”  That caught my attention.  So I immediately grabbed a pad of paper and wrote it down. 

Joy is one of the good wishes that many Christmas cards offer.  But joyful words can fall on unreceptive ears. Many of us feel dispirited because of the stress and expectations that accompany our Christmas celebrations.  So joy eludes us.

Brother David’s insight helped me.  I started a list of taken-for-granted things.  Eyesight, hearing and every breath I take.  The smell of coffee or of bacon frying in the pan and the feel of warm blankets and warm water for a daily shower. My car, my phone and even my ‘blasted’ computer!  Great friends, family, hugs, laughter, ice cream! And my faith.

If you take fewer things for granted, you will increase your joy. 

When I reread my list, I smile.  They are such gifts.  Make your own list of things you take for granted and have a more joyful Christmas.



                                                         The Anxiety of Joseph
                                                                 12-20-16

In 1890, James Tissot painted a picture he called, ‘The Anxiety of Joseph’.  It shows St. Joseph leaning on his workbench, with a chisel in his hand, staring out the window, motionless. It captures the state of St. Joseph’s mind between his discovery that Mary was pregnant and some days later when he took her into his home.

Long days of worry, stress, anxiety and a haunting dream.  What happened to Mary?  How could she be pregnant?  Who did she have relations with?  What did the nosy neighbors think and his friends?  What to do?  What did God want? Divorce her quietly and go on with his life? Be the father of a child that wasn’t his? 

Anxiety quelled. with an open heart, he trusted God. Not a perfect Christmas. No room in the inn.  Herod’s murderous threats.  Birth in a barn. But Emmanuel - God was with them.     

Anxiety and Christmas…No surprise to us.  What are your Christmas worries and fears?  Family squabbles? Health issues? The gifts? The meal? Who goes to church, who doesn’t?

Not a perfect Christmas, but a pretty good one. Emmanuel - God is with us too. 
                                                     


                                               Emmanuel and the Shepherds
                                                                12-27-16

Yesterday I baptized five-week-old beautiful twin girls. What a great blessing! Afterwards I relooked at the baptismal text in Matthew 28:20. It contains Jesus final words to His disciples: “I am with you always….”

Similar prophetic words were relayed to St. Joseph by an angel in a dream: “You shall name Him Emmanuel…a name which means God-is-with-us.” Mt. 1:23   

It’s easy to see that God-is-with-us in newborn children and when we can count many blessings.  It’s not so easy to see God-is-with-us if we are ignored or put down or seen as marginal people who count for nothing.   

That’s why the shepherds were the first ones invited to the manger.

The shepherds weren’t warm, gentle folk as we’ve been led to believe.  In fact, I recently read that they were more like the ‘Hell’s Angels’of the 1st century! Rough characters, never accepted by polite society. They didn’t even go to synagogues because they were ‘unclean’.  But God especially chose them.  Why? What did God see in them? 

In light of this, if Jesus were born today in Racine (or wherever you live), who do you think God would pick to be the first people to visit Him?  Would God choose you?  Why or why not?    


                                                        Pondering Mary
                                                            01-03-17

Every Jan 1st our church celebrates the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God.  The gospel for this feast is always the same.  It describes Mary’s pondering.  She reflects on what the shepherds said about Jesus as they left the stable to tell others about the Saviour in the manger.  Lk. 2:19 says: “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”

So the first days of January become a time to ponder things.  As 2016 ends and 2017 begins, I look in the rear view mirror at the past year.  I try to see and hear the things God wants me to notice as I enter a New Year.

Here are some questions to help you ponder.

  1. What is the most significant thing that happened to you in the past year?  What was God saying to you in the light of that happening?
  2. Name some people that God put into your life in particular ways in 2016? Why did God put them there? What blessings have come from them?  
  3. Regardless of who you voted for, it is clear that the political winds are shifting in our country.  In the light of that, what do you think God wants of us and our church?  
                                                        Happy New Year!
                                                             

                                                              Immigration
                                                                 01-10-17

Do you remember when Joseph, Mary and Jesus were immigrants?  It happened when the Magi left. They were warned in a dream not to return to Herod but to find another way home.  King Herod was threatened by a ‘new-born king of the Jews’.  So he ordered the massacre of all male children born in/around Bethlehem during that time.

Joseph got an angelic message telling him to leave Israel and to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt to protect Jesus’ life…until further notice.  (Read the story in Mt. 2:13-23.)

That memory is at the heart of National Migration Week, an annual event that always starts on the feast of the Epiphany.  It is sponsored by the Catholic Bishops of the United States.  You can read about it and their positions online at NCCB – Migration Week. 

Our Bishops are pressing for immigration policies that do not divide families or force massive deportations.  Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles says: “Our system has been broken for so long…that the people we are now punishing are our neighbors.”

Name the immigrants in your family background.  Name immigrants you know from work, church or your neighborhood. In light of the Holy Family’s experience, what do you think we should do?   

                                           
                                                    Moving Air, Wind or Breath
                                                                  01-17-17

In John’s account of Jesus’ Baptism we hear that the ‘Spirit’ came down on Jesus in the form of a dove and remained with Him (Jn 1:29-34).  The original meaning of that word ‘Spirit’ is ‘moving air’, like a breeze or wind or a breath. 

‘Spirit’ is also the word used to describe the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:7).  God shapes humans from the dust of the earth and then breathes into them the breath of life.  God’s breath  is ‘Spirit’.

Just as ‘Spirit’, came down on Jesus in His baptism, so does ‘Spirit’ comes to us in our baptisms.  Consequently, we are also filled with the breath of God.

It is God’s breath/spirit in us, which leads us to live holy lives.  Love, hope, forgiveness, mercy, justice and peace, and all heartfelt things in the core of our beings, are generated by God’s spirit/breath in us.  

For a moment just breathe in and out a couple times and think about God’s breath in you.

Name some effects of God’s spirit/breath in your personal life over the past week?  Name a family member, a friend, a politician, an adversary, a co-worker and a new immigrant in whom God’s spirit/breath is clearly evident to you.  


                                                      Texas Hold ‘em
                                                            01-24-17

I don’t play cards.  But recently I read a description of  ‘Texas hold ‘em’.  Players get 2 cards face down. When the 3rd and 4th cards are dealt face up, the players place bets. After the 5th card is dealt, anyone can declare “all in”. Then all players must choose. They can say ‘all in’ and push their chips to the center or they say ‘fold’ and loose the chips they’ve already bet. 

It makes me nervous just thinking about it.

When Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to follow Him, they immediately leave their boats and follow Him.  The same thing happens with James and John.  It’s amazing. It didn’t take much for them to say “all in” with Jesus. (John 4:18-22)

My problem is that sometimes I hedge my bets.  I will follow the Lord but…I don’t want to give Him everything.  Sometimes I want more security.  Or I want more control over my time, my money and my life. So I hold a little back from Him.   

What do you hold back from the Lord?  What would it take for you to be ‘all in’with Him?  The paradox is: In realizing we are not ‘all in’ with Jesus, we actually get closer to being ‘all in’.

Friday, January 27, 2017

                                                           My Best Christmas

My best Christmas comes down to a few words from my dad.  It was 1990 and the first time we were together for Christmas in 5 years.  (I’d been working the the Dominican Republic during those previous years.)

After opening the gifts we were talking about our family.  In that context, dad shared one of his regrets.  His regret was spending very little time with my older brother and me when we were kids.  He had a full time day job and he worked part time three nights a week and every other weekend.  Not much time or energy to play ball with us.   

I’d felt that void with my dad for a long time.  We weren’t very close.  But his regret moved me.  It meant that he understood what had happened. His regret was an act of love. It was an unexpected gift that really touched my heart.  So, out my 68 Christmases, that was the best one.        


Isn’t it amazing that a few unexpected words would make such a difference?  What unexpected thing could you say to someone this Christmas time?  Touching someone’s heart with honest loving words is more valuable than a new laptop or a piece of jewelry or a fancy dinner.  And if words fail you, just give the gift of your time.