The Homily Crypt

Old Homilies Never Die, They End Up on the Internet!

This is my FIRST COLLECTION of miscellaneous homilies (in no particular order) written around ten years ago. I am unsure about their value, but in the hope that someone might find them helpful, I am depositing them here. Who knows, perhaps separated from the yawns and crying babies, there might be some life in these words of mine yet? If not, the title for the section, has been well chosen. As I often use mental outlines today, most of these words extend back to the first days after my ordination. Pardon the fact, that as such, they sometimes show the weaknesses and naive preconceptions of a neophyte to ministry. Neither is this listing inclusive; such is the way of things mandated by the limitations of this forum and the loss of some documents over time. Many blessings!

01. Facing the Sins of Our Lives

02. Continuing the Prophetic Witness

03. Discernment of Spirits

04. Courageous on Behalf of the Gospel

05. On the Sacrament of Reconciliation

06. Demonstration of Faith

07. Out of Prison

08. To See More Than An Empty Tomb

09. Our Belief & Unbelief

10. A Message for Every Age

11. The Gates are Opened

12. Our Bodies are Us

13. To Share Food is To Share Life

14. Make Disciples of the Whole World

15. My Lord & My God!

16. Two Kingdoms

17. Human Dignity & the Community

18. God So Loved the World

19. How Can We Answer God?

20. Share Your Bread with the Hungry

21. Death is Robbed of Its Sting

22. Shaw/O'Brien Wedding

23. God Does Not Forget Us

24. Invitation to the Little Ones of the World

25. Bringing in the Harvest

26. Memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekawitha

27. Our True Treasure

28. God is Not Elected

29. God's Fatherly Concern

30. Jesus Drives Evil Away

31. The Kiss of Death

32. Elevation of Mary

33. Fulfillment of the Law

34. Hold Fast to God

35. Mary Without Sin

36. Facing Our Mortality & Immortality

37. The Witness of Ashes

38. Fast & Abstinence

39. A Church for Sinners

40. Reform & Believe

41. Peter & the Papacy

42. Polycarp, Handing on the Torch of Faith

43. A Greater Than Jonah Here

44. Realizing the Love of God

45. Reconciliation with God & Man

46. Mass at Theological College

47. Living Water

48. The Fidelity of Christ

49. St. Patrick

50. The Proposed Women's Pastoral

51. Addendum on the Women's Pastoral

Title: Facing the Sins of Our Lives

Date: Sunday, August 28, 1988 - Twenty-Second Sunday (B)

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:1-2;6-8 / Psalm 15:2-3;3-4;4-5 / James 1:17-18;21-22;27 / Mark 7:1-8;14-15;21-23

The message which emerges from our Gospel tonight is one which can prove quite unsettling. Indeed, I am almost afraid to bring further attention to it because of the possible angry reactions it might evoke. None of us, myself included, like to be reminded at how imperfect, weak, and sinful we are. We create all kinds of barriers in our lives to protect ourselves from this realization. We try earnestly to project images of wholesomeness and sanctity, even when we realize that we have a long way to go.

We need to be so careful not to become a people of pretense, but rather a people of true purity and holiness. This is not some goal reserved to those of past history or to those outside our materialism in poorer nations like Yugoslavia or India or Latin America. We here in the capitol of one of the richest, most technological, and powerful nations in the world, we too need to place our trust completely in God, despite the distractions. Christ condemns the Pharisees by using the words of the prophet Isaiah against them, "This people pays me lip service, but their heart is far from me." Our hearts need to belong to God. It is the only response from us that makes sense. After all, Christ in this Mass, comes to live in our hearts by way of the sacrament of his very self, the Eucharist. How contradictory is this miraculous gift to the kind of sad things by which many people are enslaved.

The Lord gives us a long grocery list of the type of wicked designs which emerge from the core of the heart, things which would never allow room for Christ's presence to reside there. In our prayer and in the sacraments, especially reconciliation, we need to root out these foreign loyalties so that there will be room for Christ to live in us. But to do this, we must also be sensitive to that which does not belong to God.

We need to be on the alert lest we deaden ourselves to the tragic infestation of sin. Throughout this great land, people of all ages flaunt a lifestyle of fornication that Christ noted as the first wicked design to condemn on his list. Perhaps this shows us how serious it is? Elsewhere in Scripture, it is said that no fornicator can have any part of the Kingdom of God. The Church could no more retract this teaching than it could reject Christ's divinity or his resurrection. People, especially the young, give away their very persons before they even know what they are relinquishing. Our identity is a precious gift, Christ would have any who would share it in the most intimate way, to do so within the secure confines of a holy marriage -- a life open to fidelity and open to new life. Also on the list is adultery. If marriage is that special covenant by which the deep relationship of Christ is revealed in regard to his bride the Church, then this is a most serious transgression indeed. It is idolatry. Instead of loving Christ in your spouse, you have turned elsewhere. It undoes everything the Christian is about.

The other sins Christ mentions are also things which should send off warning lights in our lives. Theft -- how many ways, both petty and major have we stolen during our lives? How often have we taken more than what was our due? How often have we even robbed others of their good name and dignity? Murder -- how many here have never lifted a hand to prevent a young woman from destroying her unborn child? How many of us here in our words and actions have killed the spirit of such women by not forgiving them afterwards? How many times have we killed others by taking away their hopes and dreams, making them a walking dead? Greed and Envy -- why must we always keep up with the Jones' and decide to insure our lifestyle even at the cost of having children?

How often have we made material things into our goal instead of Christ and salvation? Maliciousness -- why is it that sometimes we look back on our behavior and try to justify our meanness? Deceit -- from the white lie and minor alteration to the black and complete dishonesty, how can we justify this as a people who follow a Savior called, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life?" Sensuality -- while not denying our sexuality, why is it so often used as bait catching fish instead of as an integral part of us? Why do we allow the passions such a free reign in our life, forgetting to mortify ourselves? Blasphemy -- how can it be that our faith and God can be ridiculed and so many of us fail to be agitated? Why is it that a movie can be made which distorts the image of Christ as a wimpish fool and so few seem concerned?

Arrogance and Obtuse (Insensitive) Spirit -- why is it today that the Word of God and Tradition as interpreted by the teachers in the Church can all be ridiculed with impunity?

How is it that we can show disrespect to sacred images, articles, places, and persons? Why is it that so many of our brothers and sisters can make time for television, movies, dances, and other such things, and find no time for God or the Mass? Why is it that we can become callous and cold, even to the needs of others?

If these things convict us of sin, then we must be willing to recognize it and to ask for God's pardon. He loves us all more than we will ever know. With the gift of his pardon, we will also receive his grace to avoid sin and to become more like that figure in the psalm "Who walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue. Who harms not his fellow man, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;...."

Title: Continuing the Prophetic Witness

Date: Monday, August 29, 1988 - Beheading of John the Baptist

Readings: Jeremiah 1:17-19 / Psalm 71:1-2;3-4;5-6;15;17 / Mark 6:17-29

Living in an age where so many teenage girls crave things like stereos and tv's, records, clothes, and jewelry -- this figure of Herodius' daughter is a peculiar one -- she wants the head of John the Baptist. I suppose times do change, even if just the externals, but the old rivalries are still with us.

In yesterday's Gospel, on Sunday, the Lord gave his disciples a long list of sins to avoid. He challenged them not to be hypocrites but to be a genuine people in love with the Lord. I mentioned that such lists, if preached upon, can make us angry, the reason being that most of us do not like to be reminded of our sinfulness and weakness. We even try to keep it from ourselves. Herodius was like this, too. John the Baptist would not allow them to forget or to ignore the great sin with which she and Herod had become involved. She soon discovered that the only way to silence him was to have his head on a platter, to force her lover to kill him.

We need to be, not like Herodius, but like John the Baptist. He fully realized that we were all sinners, needing to admit this reality to ourselves and to repent. Indeed, the baptism he offered in the desert was one of repentance and conversion. We should face up to what we do and to who we are, both to the beautiful and to the ugly. If we are not honest to ourselves, how can we dare face our selves, our neighbor, and our God with any semblance of integrity?

Sometimes to be a prophetic witness like John the Baptist will require hardship for us as well. It might mean that we will also have to die. If not physically, we may have to endure the little dyings that come when we challenge others to a more moral life and one which places God in a central position. I know a young girl who has just returned to college. To use an old phrase, she really is a "nice girl." Some of her friends, especially a few boys she really likes have mocked her values and have alienated themselves from her because of what she believes. She went to Church Sunday and they made fun of her. She is decent and they harass her. She called home to her folks and asked, "Mom, why are they doing this to me?" She asked this in tears because she had thought these people were her friends.

We need to pray for such young people who struggle courageously to maintain their faith and values. We know how deeply it can sometimes hurt. It would be good for us in word and example to continue our prophetic witness of Christ's kingdom breaking into the world; and to pray for ourselves and such young people as I mentioned today who need our love and encouragement.

Title: Discernment of Spirits

Date: Tuesday, August 30, 1988 - Twenty-Second Week of the Year (II)

Readings: 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 / Psalm 145:8-9;10-11;12-13;13-14 / Luke 4:31-37

On Sunday, the Lord gave us a long litany of sins to avoid; on Monday, the story of John the Baptist revealed just how much we might not want our sins unveiled, even to ourselves; and today, our first reading tells us something of our personal discernment in regards to our sinful nature. The selection we have begins, "The Spirit scrutinizes all matters, even the deep things of God." It is a wonderful and insightful depiction of the interior life. We as Christians do not simply follow laws in blind obedience. We are called not simply to go through the motions of faith; quite contrarily, we are to be filled with God's Spirit from within.

It is difficult for me to convey what I mean here. On the spiritual level, we need to be in communication with the Spirit of God. God helps us to see our failings as well as offers us gifts to transcend them. We pray. In the quiet of prayer our open hearts are clasped by a heart greater still.

We reflect upon our life and ask God for a deeper share in his, by instructing, loving, forgiving, and healing. Anything that would contend against these values of Christ would be from the spirit of the world and not from God. The world's spirit cannot understand us because it is too restless. It hides sin behind deceit and rationalization.

It is no friend of the truth. It loves its own ends without full consideration of others. It seeks revenge instead of forgiveness and will not admit wrongs. And, instead of healing, it will step on anyone or anything to get what it wants.

In the quiet of our life, we need to seek that other Spirit which seeks peace. The fruits for these two rivals in our loyalties are so different, that it should not take long to begin the work of distinguishing one spirit from the other.

However, it may take a whole lifetime to detach one. The spirit of the world will not readily leave and it is greedy to possess us. It wants to dull or deafen our consciences with the noise of sin and distraction. Like that demon in the Gospel, we need Christ's help in destroying it and demanding it to come out. We cannot do it alone. Christ's voice alone is loud enough to restore order and peace. He has been given this authority to liberate us and to fill us with God's Spirit. In this way, we can put on the mind of Christ and not the mindlessness of the world. Consequently, our continuing reflection must rely upon a profound trust in Jesus Christ and his grace in us.

Title: Courageous on Behalf of the Gospel

Date: Sunday, January 29, 1989 - Fourth Sunday of the Year

Readings: Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19 / Psalm 71:1-2,3-4,5-6,15-17 / 1 Corinthians 12:31-13,13 / Luke 4:21-30

We pick up the Gospel today just after Jesus has revealed himself publicly in the synagogue as the promised messiah. Although initially pleased with his learned exhortations, they now begin to question his authority. Those who knew him as a child or knew his family begin to gossip about him. Hidden in these words is their disbelief that the promised one could possibly be one from their own midst, and a poor man at that! Their acceptance of him swiftly soured into rejection. They no longer wanted to hear what he had to say.

Sometimes we as Catholic Christians, making manifest the same Christ, our Savior, will discover similar rejection and even embarrassment. Sometimes to speak the words of God will be difficult, not only because we want to be accepted, but because of how they might touch others. Like medicine, sometimes the healing of our Lord comes in a package that may include more preliminary pain before any true healing can take place. The presence of Jesus among his own people would be the same way. Some would have to earnestly struggle with his message and presence. For most of his disciples, witnessing for the Master would also cost them their mortal lives; however, in return they would receive everlasting life.

I mention this because I am somewhat uneasy about what I want to say today. The first reading says that, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you." Long ago, with the holy chrism, we were anointed as Christian prophets. For most of us, this was part of our baptism; the challenge afterwards was to be nurtured in the faith by our parents and to proclaim it to others as adults. I wonder if we always do that, myself included? It is so easy to get comfortable and to allow another to do all the work of evangelization or Christian witness. However, what would become of a world filled with people so poorly motivated? I shudder to imagine.

The particular wording in our first reading is reminiscent of other passages which deal with God calling us, even before we saw the light of day. In the New Testament, the most famous is the one in which the prophet John the Baptist leaps with joy in his mother's womb when he is near to his Savior still hidden deep inside Mary's flesh. From the very beginning, each and every one of us is called.

This past Monday, many of the citizens of this land marched on Washington for the sake of the unborn, a very troubling issue to be sure. Those children who for one reason or another are not wanted, have from the very beginning, been called by God to fellowship in him. Those young women who have faced this crisis, and the many who have made agonizing decisions, have also been called by God. The same could be said for those who are often the invisible partners in this tragedy, the men who have become reluctant fathers. All of them need healing. The woman who makes a poor decision, or who sometimes was pressured into doing so, needs to realize the wrongness of what happened, so that true repentance and healing might be achieved. The same sense of scrutiny and responsibility also needs to be accepted in the lives of men who are partners in this holocaust. We can be partners in sin or we can be helpers to one another in grace. As for the child, we believe that God desires the salvation of all. If we should abandon the youngest of children, God will not. They are alive. This realization can be the hardest of all for those who have suffered this dilemma. They are alive. Adopted by the loving arm of the Church, touched by the same love which embraced the children killed by Herod in Christ's stead, they are alive. As such, they pray for their parents and God willing, wait until we are all rejoined together in Paradise.

Our faith tells us that all are called. No life is to be wasted. All life is precious. Our second reading reminds us that faith, hope, and love are everlasting. When it comes to the truths of our faith or the moral values which the Gospel upholds, we need to be courageous. Do we attend Mass every Sunday in order to worship God in the community? Do we pray a few minutes every day? Do we try to be charitable and peaceful? Do we stand up for our beliefs and for our Church when they are mocked or ridiculed? Do we attempt to correct those in error? Do we use or waste the great gift of life with which God and our parents gifted us?

In every new life and in ever old life made new by Christ's forgiveness, hope is born. What might we become? With God, the possibilities are endless. What are our hopes for each other? A time when children can go to school and play safely? A world that does not threaten to throw the gift of creation back into God's face? A future wherein we all meet the goals set for us by God, growing in wisdom and grace, just as Christ once did? We work to achieve these hopes, knowing that in God's will, all things come in his own good time. We wait in hope, knowing that God calls every one of us. One day all our hopes will be realized.

When this happens, it will be because God loved us and loved us first. We exist because of love, the love of God and the love of a man and woman. We live for love; if you don't believe this just try to exist without it. Maybe it all boils down to our responding with the same kind of trusting love with which Christ accepted the Father's will in his life? Of all visible creation, it is only the human being who can respond back to God in prayer and a life of love.

Title: Second Homily of a Series on the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Date: Second Sunday of Advent, 1988 (C)

Readings: Not Listed

Christ's Presence: Past and Present - Today we enter upon the second week of our Advent preparation. It is a time when we make ourselves ready for both the celebration of the historical fact of the Incarnation, when God came to us in the form of man; and for the acceptance of the ever flowing presence of Christ into our lives in the form of grace, which makes Christ alive inside us. As a part of a triad of homilies offered here at Saint Ann's on the sacrament of Reconciliation, it is about the quality of our integrity and the substance of our fidelity which I would like to speak on this occasion.

The Price of Truth - Our Gospel reminds us that it was John the Baptizer who fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah: "A herald's voice in the desert, crying, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path.'" The Baptizer knew well that the only path which failed to get lost in detours -- the only sword which could cut through the web of men's lies -- the only life-preserver able to preserve us from drowning in our sins -- was the commanding authority of the truth. Later, Jesus himself would admit to the Roman procurator Pilate that "The reason I was born, the reason why I came into the world, is to testify to the truth. Anyone committed to the truth hears my voice." War weary and perhaps tired of governing a rebellious people, Pilate answered as only a stoic could, "Truth, what does that mean?" And yet, despite his cold manner, he would later admit that he could find no case against this man Jesus. Had the truth begun to break through his armor of indifference or was it merely the plea of a man who no longer cared? Let truth be whatever you want it to be? So many different lands -- so many different peoples and Gods -- so many voices -- and so many varying versions of the truth; how could they all be right? Might they all be wrong? Like John the Baptist before him, the peculiar truth of this emerging God would be rejected by most, accepted by a few, and would cost Jesus his life.

Reminder That Sin Remained - The Baptizer would not easily be silenced. Learned men were sent out to spy upon him and to attempt to trick him. Herod pleaded that he would be finished with his ceaseless mutterings against his adultery with his brother's wife. However, if the conscience of Herod had been softened by lust and ambition; the voice which stirred from the Baptizer's soul was a reminder that the sin remained. Eventually, the wild dance of a young girl would so clutter Herod's reason that he would make an irresponsible pledge of evil, and John's head would be served on a platter. Jesus, the one foretold by the Baptizer, would also seek to remove the blinders from peoples' eyes; indeed, so similar were they, that some speculated that he was John raised from the dead. The irony of those words had yet to be realized.

The only sin which would raise Christ's ire, would be the sin of hypocrisy. His anger erupting in the temple, he called the Pharisees "blind guides"! Supposedly, they were the ones who knew the truth of God and lived it; instead, they sought to distort it in order to preserve their comfortable and respected position in society. The message which Christ preached threatened their safe and elitist life. The multiplicity of laws made it impossible for any save themselves to follow them to the last iota. Nevertheless, if they enforced a cruel scrupulosity upon everyone else; they were lax upon themselves in recalling that the spirit of the law was love. Messiah or not, this Jesus had to be eliminated -- this truth of his had to be silenced!

Alive in the Early Church - Our second reading is a reminder to us that the voice in the desert and the truth of Jesus did not perish with them. Christ's resurrection from the dead vindicated him and his message against the verdict of sinful man. His truth would remain alive and because of its great compelling power, even take root in some of those who betrayed or sought to destroy him and his followers. Peter who denied with his lies three times ever knowing Christ, would one day witness to the truth, even at the cost of taking up his own cross. Fear would no longer paralyze his thoughts and actions. Paul who had been so closed-minded to Christ that he approved of the stoning of Stephen, would be wondrously blinded by the light of truth. Indeed, it is his words which profess the truth to us in our second reading: "My prayer is that your love may more and more abound, both in understanding and wealth of experience, so that with a clear conscience and blameless conduct you may learn to value the things that really matter, up to the very day of Christ." It is for that day of Christ that we prepare. To do so, we must also testify to the truth of Christ.

Conscience and Conduct Today - In this season, as we prepare for our "Come Home for Christmas" reconciliation services and the day of Christ's coming, we also need to examine our conscience and behavior. We do this, not in light of some nebulous feeling or even according to the values of the majority of our peers, we do so in comparison to the standard of Christ and his Church. In season and out, popular or not, the truth is proclaimed.

Admission of Sinfulness - The first realization which must dawn upon us is that we are all sinners. From the last harsh word we uttered to the little lies we tell; from our lack of preoccupation in the liturgy to our passivity regarding the murder of the child in the womb -- we are sinners. We need to be honest to ourselves and to God about that fact. In our consciences, we very often try to run away from this reality; after all, it is an admission of imperfection. However, humility requires this acknowledgment, even if Satanic pride would deny it.

The Lax Conscience - I use the word "Satanic" here because I believe it is all too easy in our lax consciences to reduce all sin to the level of a simple fault, a mistake, or a stumble. All of these words fail to take into consideration that sin is more than our merely tripping over our own feet. We sin because there is a part of us that chooses to do it, likes doing it, wants to do it some more, and will seek to hide it. There is a malicious and wicked quality to it. Sometimes we might be so good at hiding our sins that we even hide them to ourselves. We rationalize that "everybody's doing it" or "that I am not a saint". And yet, if we are following in Christ's footsteps, it was for going against the former that Jesus was put to death and for the latter that he allowed his passion and death. We are all called to be holy and his grace can make this seemingly impossible goal obtainable.

Opportunity for Reconciliation - This leads us to our second realization, that if we are sinners, we have not been left to despair and to die in our sins; Jesus offers us the grace of his presence, a presence of healing, peace, and forgiveness. Here too our consciences must not collapse between the tension of either being lax or scrupulous. Our appreciation of sin and the sense of guilt or remorse which brings us to confess and seek pardon is a noble human gesture. However, once that forgiveness of God is given, we must forgive ourselves as well. We need to believe that God does what he claims to do. When Christ forgives our sins through the instrumentality of the priest, healing us and dissolving our breach with God and the community, the slate of our lives is wiped clean. Like a newborn baby we are made new. Temporal punishment may remain and so we are given a penance; but our standing in the Church and before God is healed and restored.

The Scrupulous Conscience - Although the seal of confession prevents me from naming particulars, the habit of keeping lists containing hundreds of particular sins, big and small, throughout the week, demonstrates an obsession with one's sins, a sense of inferiority and depravity. We need to believe that God has made us wondrous creatures to behold, a little less than angels. When I was a teenager, I was so scrupulous that I even thought my feelings, beyond my control, were sins calling for remission. Even our sexuality, one of God's greatest gifts to us, is sometimes cursed among supposedly chaste people because of the intensity of its attraction to others. However, they would do well to recall that often repeated incident in which Archbishop Sheen at a dinner was caught momentarily eyeing a good-looking woman. His answer was, "Just because I am on a diet doesn't mean I cannot look at the menu." He was not condoning any violation of a prudent custody of the eyes. No evil thoughts were implied. He was praising God for his genius of design in creation. Even at Saint Peter's in Rome itself, the beauty of the human form is displayed in great works of art. Having said this, it occurs to me that sexuality is one of those issues which we have to keep in tension. If we are not to be scrupulous about it, we must also not be lax. The commandments of Scripture and the natural law more than suggest an objective norm of living out our sexuality, reserving its fullest expression to marriage and in mandating that it always nurture fidelity and new life. I could have spoken at length this way about any of an assortment of concerns and sinful extremes, but it does seem that sex is the most popular topic in the news these days.

Forgive Us As We Forgive - If the lax conscience sins by presumption of God's will and mercy; the scrupulous sins by questioning and even rejecting his forgiveness. We may fall into certain regular or habitual sins that need to be confessed; but, why tell the same sin committed years and tears ago, over and over again? [I am not talking here about a general confession which seeks to examine the general thrust or orientation of our life.] Could it be that we sometimes do not believe that God can do what he claims? God does not forgive as we often do. Frequently, our offer of forgiveness is tainted by a threat or warning, "Okay, I'll forgive you this time, but next time, pow!" When God forgives, he forgets. The all-knowing God puts our sins behind him, and no longer looks upon them. Perhaps we would do better if we tried to forgive in the same way? Years ago, I was watching the 700 Club on TV and there was an interview with a couple whose teenage son was ruthlessly murdered by another boy for what little pocket change he carried. In our own hearts, how many of us would have wanted to respond with violence in kind? They did not; instead, this young murderer, an orphan of the streets, was regularly visited by only two people, the murdered boy's parents. They prayed and even forgave him. They fought for his release and when that day came, they took him home and made him their own. How many of us could have done that? Perhaps that shows how much more conversion we still need.

Loving Ourselves As Precious - We killed God's Son by our sins, and yet he forgives us and forgets the sin. Oddly enough, no matter how prayerful and devout, the failure to forgive ourselves may be the most dangerous kind of sin of all. How some people must hate themselves! I mean that. Only hate could make people rehearse their past transgressions in their minds over and over. Have they grown to desire the pain it brings? I do not know. If the lax have made themselves fools to their passions of self-love; the scrupulous have become slaves to their own self-loathing. Christ would have us be free. He would have us responsibly love ourselves as precious in his eyes because he has first loved us. Indeed, unless we love ourselves in this way, what becomes of the commandment, "To love your neighbor as yourself"?

Closing Statements on Conscience - Before I finish I would like to say a few more precise things about conscience. It is neither the comical stereotype of an angel whispering on one shoulder and a devil on the other nor an arbitrary feeling that something is either good or bad. Conscience is an attempt of the mind to make an appropriate judgment about whether an action is either right
or wrong. True judgment demands knowing the facts and deliberation over them prior to action. Odd as it may seem, we are obliged to follow our conscience even when a false judgment is made. However, as soon as we learn otherwise, we must accordingly adjust to agree with a now properly formed conscience. Judgment can be flawed for all sorts of reasons; we might be perplexed, coerced, scrupulous, lax, etc. We suspend judgment when in doubt and do not act until a certain conclusion has been reached. The Church maintains that conscience needs to be properly informed and a judgment must be made according to the appropriate law, i.e. natural law, ten commandments, and the law of love.

In all visible creation, only human beings have been called by God to accept responsibility for their actions. Neither pre-programed robots nor animals of blind instinct, we have been give free will and an intellect capable of discerning God's design from the natural order and revelation. Unhealthy extremes in conscience would include the static which would have the Church spoon feed everything, dismissing the enlightening power of God's Spirit and responsibility; and the dynamic conscience which would go to the other side in embracing revolution or even rebellion in actions. These are the people who think the Church and its bishops are always wrong until they say something with which they agree. No one can tell them what to do, even the Church! The true path of conscience is between these two and is surmised by a document from the Canadian Bishops: "We can qualify this as the dynamic Christian conscience. This is the conscience which leads us to have a responsible attitude to someone, to Jesus, to the community, to the Church, etc. Every person who fits into this category feels a responsibility for a progressive search and striving to live out a life ideal according to the mind of Christ."

Coming Home For Christmas - There are forms in the Church to help you examine your consciences; but only you can do it. The forms can help us reconsider the blind spots in our lives; but only we can make the resolutions this coming new year to change them for the better. I would encourage you all to participate in our "Coming Home for Christmas" program and to tell others about it. After all, the power to loose and bind from sin, given to the Apostles, is not a principle of enslavement but of freedom. "The truth will make you free" (John 8:32).

Title: Demonstration of Faith

Date: May 9, 1988 - Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Readings: Acts 16:11-15 / Psalm 149:1-2,3-4,5-6,9 / John 15:26-16:4

The mission to bring the Good News of God transcended the rules of a society which were often unjust. This was evident in last Thursday's readings. When at the Council of Jerusalem, Peter sided with Paul in that circumcision would not be required of Gentile men who converted. However, this legislation also had much to offer women. In the order of grace they would be equal to men in dignity. Baptism would be the great rite of initiation for all. Jesus in his own ministry, did not hesitate to speak and deal with women, even when there were taboos against doing so. He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. He allowed himself to be anointed by the sinner woman. Although he had nothing, there were holy women who followed and supported him from their purses. He spoke with Martha and Mary as friends, dealing with them on the level of true disciples.

In today's first reading, Paul is seeking a place to pray. At the bank of a river they find several women and speak to them. However, listen to what the Scriptures have to say about one of them: "One who listened was a woman named Lydia,...She already reverenced God, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying." The message of Christ was offered to many, but unlike Lydia, they heard without listening. Like Paul himself some time earlier, her heart already belonged to God; now, she would know personally the one to whom her heart belonged. Notice also that her whole household was converted. From Paul's lips to those of Lydia, we find the proclamation of disciples. To demonstrate the reality of her new found faith she invited Paul and his company to stay at her house.

The Lord offers his message to us as well. We cannot simply allow the words to passively pass through our ears. We need to hold the Good News in our hearts and wonder at its meaning for us. And, if the Word of God is alive in us, then like Paul and Lydia and can offer it to others whom we meet.

Title: Out of Prison

Date: May 10, 1988 - Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Readings: Acts 16:22-34 / Psalm 138:1-2,2-3,7-8 / John 16:5-11

Imagine that you are in prison. You are afraid. You have been whipped and mocked. Your feet are bound down in chains. A guard is at the door and there seems no way of escape. Who knows, maybe they will beat you more tomorrow? Maybe they will go even further? Can you imagine how desperately you might want to escape and run away?

Paul and Silas find themselves in this situation. However, instead of betraying their cause or crying out in despair and fear -- they sing songs. They pray and sing hymns to God. The other prisoners listen and maybe find some consolation in their hymns. Suddenly, there is an earthquake. The guard is asleep. The doors fly open. The chains are pulled loose. Run! Run! This is th natural human sentiment. It is probably what most of us would do. Get out of there quick! Hide!

Escape! Freedom! The guard awakens and thinking that the prisoners have escaped, he draws his sword to commit suicide. He is like us. He feels that he has run out of options. If he takes his life, the authorities may spare his family. However, Paul shouts out, "Do not harm yourself! We are still here." The jailer cannot believe it. He calls for a light, and there in the shadows are Paul and Silas. He falls at their feet. Why did they not escape? They speak to him and he asks them what he would have to do to be saved. Their action is changing him.

Suddenly he is more concerned about the salvation offered from God then simply avoiding the punishment from his superiors. His fear evaporates. He himself takes them out of the prison and to his household. He bathes their wounds and then Paul bathes him and his family in the waters of baptism. With a table spread out, they all then celebrate the newfound faith.

Yesterday we had the providential meeting of a woman near a bank of water who heard the Good News and believed. Today, a jailor, whom many of us may have thought about murdering, was himself saved by God. There have been similar stories during our own age, where the witness of Christians in prison have lead to the conversion of their persecutors. We may not find ourselves behind bars for our faith, but we may sometimes be prisoners nonetheless. We can hide our faith behind the bars of indifference, prejudice, or even just laziness. We often fail to try to move people we love to greater faith in Jesus and we practically forget about those we dislike. Indeed, instead of praying and working for the conversion of all, we might be very selective in whom we choose to confide about Christ. Paul was not. Friend or foe. Male or female. Jew or Gentile. Slave or free. Ugly or beautiful. The Gospel is meant for all.

Title: To See More Than An Empty Tomb

Date: April 3, 1988 - Easter Sunday

Readings: Acts 10:34,37-43 / Psalm 118:1-2,16-17,22-23 / Colossians 3:1-4 / Sequence / John 20:1-9

The cast of characters in our Gospel this morning are very familiar. They include Mary Magdalen, Simon Peter, and John. But notice who is absent in our reading; although it is a Gospel and therefore about Jesus, he is neither seen nor heard. All we have is the empty tomb and some surprised disciples. The story, of course, goes on; but, the Church in its wisdom feels that this passage alone would suffice this morning. Why is that? Let us look at the story.

The first to reach the tomb and to make the discovery that the stone had been rolled away is Mary Magdalen. In the long history of the Church, venerable piety would link her to the prostitute whom Jesus reformed. Although modern exegesis would place this in some doubt; she, nonetheless, stands out as one of the so-called weaker sex, a woman who in that society often possessed a third class status behind oxen and other forms of property. To the eyes of many, she would be worth nothing and invisible. And yet, this Scripture and Luke even more so, places the female first at the tomb. Maybe this honor falls upon her to demonstrate how Christ has come to raise up the downtrodden and to grant all of us an equal dignity in the eyes of God. He comes for the poor, the oppressed, and the sinful. Mary Magdalen, maybe more so in that culture than our own, would come to highlight that mission. If as a child he could be worshiped by lowly shepherds then why could he not first appear to a woman who herself was lowly in the eyes of many?

In this version of the story, she is afraid and runs to Peter with the news. The second person to reach the tomb is called "the disciple Jesus loved" and we in our tradition have discerned this to be John. But, notice what he does. Although he has outrun Simon Peter, he hesitates at the entrance of the tomb and waits for him. John is nothing if he is not humble. He knows quite well whom Jesus has placed in charge of the disciples -- it is Peter. Peter is the one who first recognizes Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. But, remember what has happened recently. He has denied Christ three times. Unlike John, he runs and hides himself. He would not even be present at the Cross. Now, he is at the tomb. He is slowly recovering from his betrayal. With Jesus gone to the Father, it would be Peter who would be the rock of Christ's Church. In the tomb he sees the various wrappings, but we are not told whether he discerns more. We like Peter might also sometimes find ourselves in the paradox of both betraying Christ by our sins and yet searching earnestly for him. Where is he, we might ask?

After Peter looks into the tomb, John takes his turn. With John there is no mention of the various wrappings and artifacts which the human eye can see. No, it is John this time who sees deeper than the rest. With the same eyes which witnessed the Crucifixion and somehow did not totally abandon hope, he sees and believes. He sees with eyes of faith. It is no mere empty tomb for him. Something new has happened -- something unheard of -- something which only a madman or a man of faith might hold -- a man has risen from the grave. Notice that I say this is something new. In similar stories as with the little girl or Lazarus, a person comes back to life, but it is more like resuscitation than resurrection. Jesus would never die again. Jesus is totally transformed. Everything he is becomes something new and wonderful -- beyond suffering -- beyond sickness -- beyond death. Suddenly the quote from Jesus, that if his temple is destroyed it would be restored in three days, makes sense. He means his very own person.

Later on the Gospels would relate episodes where the risen Lord who is man and yet also very much God, would appear to his followers. He would greet his friends from a beach. He would appear to them in the locked upper room. He would appear to a couple of followers along the road to Emmaus and be recognized in the breaking of bread, an incident which is intensely important for us who also seek Christ in his bread of life broken for us at this Eucharist. These other incidents are wonderful treasures in our heritage from God, but we must first take seriously the initial response of John and then later the other disciples. In our own personal stories we see little more than what we find in our Gospel today. Jesus does not regularly manifest himself in a sensible fashion in our homes. Even in our Church, the reality of the risen Christ can only be present in the sacraments which reveal him to our eyes of faith and yet veil him to our five physical senses.

However, we like the early Church, know in our hearts that Christ is indeed risen and that his Spirit is among us right at this moment. He promises that he would never abandon us, even unto the end of the world. In my fondness for history, I recall a passage from the great French general Napoleon after his final bid for power fails. He remarks that in his very own lifetime, his followers have forgotten him and that he is utterly deserted. And yet, Jesus who lives and dies a millennium and a half earlier still possesses disciples willing to surrender their lives for him. For Napoleon, in those last years of his life, this becomes evidence that the Spirit of the risen Christ is still alive among his disciples in the Church. This is continues to be the case for us. Not only is the risen Christ made manifest in the seven sacraments and especially in the Eucharist; he is also revealed in his Mystical Body -- ourselves.

We are given a share of that life. In baptism, we die with Christ (Good Friday) so that we might rise with him (Easter). We do not deserve this gift. But, in return for our faithfulness, it is offered all the same. Everyone who has ever died is still alive. All those who have believed in our Lord and were faithful now possess a happiness and life we could never even imagine. In the face of death, the resurrection is our one true consolation. Otherwise, we would be tempted to complete despair. Imagine, we will one day meet Christ face to face, and in him, everyone else whom we have lost and loved -- our friends -- our parents -- our brothers and sisters -- even our enemies, whom we sometimes ironically miss more than certain friends -- all those who have at least on some level of their life held Jesus as their treasure. Our Easter Candle burns tall and bright once again, a symbol that after we have burned ourselves up bringing Christ's light to those in darkness and his warmth to those in the coldness of sin, that we like him will be restored and made new.

Title: Our Belief & Unbelief

Date: April 4, 1988 - Easter Monday

Readings: Acts 2:14,22-32 / Psalm 16:1-2,5,7-8,9-10,11 / Matthew 28:8-15

From the very beginning, there would be those who would doubt the resurrection of Christ. Indeed, even one of his disciples, Thomas, would have to be challenged by Jesus himself to touch his wounds before his scepticism could be swept away. This is not the kind of rejection with which we contend in the Gospel today. The chief priests seem to have an inkling that the story of his coming back from the dead might bear some truth. It is this possibility which they seek to hide behind lies. So, they bribe the soldiers to say that Jesus' disciples had stolen the body at night.

When Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin, it was this same rigid rejection of his messiahship which catapulted him to the crucifixion. Despite the evidence of multiple witnesses, they later disregarded his resurrection. It was not so much that they doubted Jesus, but that they did not want to know who he was. His claims challenged their positions of prestige and power. His assertions about his own personhood shook their accepted norms in regard to monotheism. What did he mean when he said that he and the Father were one? What was this Spirit he would promise to send? Who was he to forgive sins, especially of those who had come no where near them in keeping all the precepts of the law?

Such a man was dangerous to them and had to die. And, what is more, he had to remain dead. We might ask, why did Christ not reappear immediately before the Pharisees and chief priests who had orchestrated his demise? If we look closely, this is already obvious for a couple of reasons. The first has already been mentioned; many of them were not interested in the truth of the situation. They hid it from themselves and tried to veil it from others. Remember that film a few years ago entitled Oh God!; no sooner had he vanished from the courtroom that they began to explain him away as mass psychosis or illusion. Would these ancient figures have been any different? Probably not. The Scriptures would be fulfilled in their regard which say that they would not believe, even if one were to rise from the dead. The second reason is the most telling and we find it in yesterday's Gospel where John looked into the empty tomb -- he saw and believed. He would not appear to those who did not believe in him. Even Paul who had persecuted Christians, was able to see Christ as only a light. The reason he could experience the risen Lord at all probably had to do with the fact that he had been mislead about Jesus and yet was still a man very much in love with God. For those who had killed this love, no vision was possible and no witness credible.

The vast host of witnesses to the risen Christ in this period and the Church's experience of the Holy Spirit throughout the ages stands for us as a most staunch underpinning to our faith. May we always be open to belief and struggle sincerely to help transform our unbelief.

Title: A Message for Every Age

Date: April 5, 1988 - Easter Tuesday

Readings: Acts 2:36-41 / Psalm 33:4-5,18-19, 20, 22 / John 20:11-18

In our Gospel today, the Lord appears to Mary Magdalen, consoles her, and sends her off with the news, "I have seen the Lord!" The insistence upon the witness of women in the Scriptures reveal to us just how much both men and women were called to be Christ's disciples. Mary Magdalen proclaims the Good News to Jesus' other followers, the men with whom he had entrusted his Apostolic authority and power. Notice his words to her. She is so thrilled to see him that he must immediately tell her not to cling to him. He exclaims that he is "ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!" This is one of the clearest statements by Christ that his particular Easter event will also be ours. The words also echo the time when he taught his friends to call God, "Our Father" in the Lord's Prayer. We who belong to Christ, belong also to the one who sent and raised him up. We who are now identified with Christ can appropriately call God our adopted Father. He keeps us in existence and in baptism refashions us to the likeness of his Son.

Likewise, the disciples in our first reading take this message and make it the cornerstone of their ministry. We have put Christ to death by our sins; however, we can repent and be baptized into Christ Jesus. Peter said, "It was to you and your children that the promise was made, and to all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls." I would love to etch those words near the main doors of the church. The message of Christ was not simply for the Jewish people, nor was it simply for the Gentiles who lived two-thousand years ago. His has been a message for every age. We in this building are many miles and many years separated from the period when Jesus walked the earth; however, no matter how far off we have been from him, his message is just as important and alive today as it was yesterday. We are still called to repent and believe. No political order, no philosophy, no educational program, no, none of these has been able to make man one iota better than he was in ancient Palestine. "Save yourselves from this generation which has gone astray." Yesterday and today our hope remains in Christ and in his forgiveness. Just as our sins in this age contributed to his crucifixion; so too does his grace and forgiveness contribute to our redemption.

Title: The Gates Are Opened

Date: April 6, 1988 - Easter Wednesday

Readings: Acts 3:1-10 / Psalm 105:1-2,3-4,6-7,8-9 / Luke 24:13-35

The story of Jesus appearing to two men on the road to Emmaus is one of the most famous of our resurrection accounts. The last phrase of our passage today, "...they had come to know him in the breaking of the bread," speaks to us about how we encounter the risen Lord in our Eucharist. The Eucharist is Christ's living legacy to us. No matter what age it might be, he does not abandon us. After his ascension, the Lord continues to abide in his early disciples as well. He sends them his spirit and works his ministry through them.

We see one incident of this in our first reading. Peter and John are going up to the temple to pray. Outside the edifice, at the temple gate, is a beggar who for years has been at the practice of begging from those who come to worship. It is interesting that he is outside the temple because as a cripple he is also outside the hearts and lives of many of his own people. He is tolerated, but looked down upon. He must beg for his subsistence. He is a man whose dignity has been tarnished by a situation beyond his control. Peter is poor in worldly riches; but, he has already begun to save up for himself treasure from heaven. He possesses Christ and he gives Christ. In the name of Jesus, he heals the crippled man and orders him to walk. In that single incident, that poor man's dignity is restored. He would no longer be a castoff from society. He is whole again. This is the meaning of Easter. We may be weighed down by our sins, be of ill health, be lonely, or sad; and yet, Jesus offers us healing and forgiveness. We had cut ourselves off from God and from his friends by our rebellion; now we can be reconciled and aliens no longer. Our shame from our primordial rebellion is no longer imputed against us and our hearts can be turned around -- making Christ our greatest treasure -- living only to serve and love God.

Notice what is the first act of the lame man once he is healed. No longer merely at the gate of the temple, he walks inside the temple with them. Through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, the gates of our heavenly Jerusalem are now open to us. May we be filled with the same joy as this healed lame man, entering heaven by "walking, jumping about, and praising God."

Title: Our Bodies Are Us

Date: April 7, 1988 - Easter Thursday

Readings: Acts 3:11-26 / Psalm 8:2,5,6-7,8-9 / Luke 24:35-48

Jesus appears to his friends and wishes them peace. Today I want to speak briefly about this appearance and a connection we can make with it in our lives. When his friends doubt it is him, or fear that it might be a ghost, he tells them to look, to see, and to touch. He shows them his wounds and says, "...a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I do." Then he accepts and eats a piece of fish with them. St. Luke is adamant in having us understand that he is really in this scene and no mere ghostly apparition or simply an internal feeling that he is present, as we sometimes sense at prayer. He is much more here.

It is this stress upon his risen bodily presence which, I believe, offers us much consolation. The human person is not a disembodied spirit. Nor are we angels. We are created with both bodies and souls and it constitutes who and what we are. That is why the Church is so insistent that on the final Judgment Day, we will be restored body and soul. Although this mystery goes beyond our feeble minds, we see hints to how it might be in Christ. Notice that he is both the same and different. At first they did not recognize him. This is no wonder. Could any of us recognize a human continence where all the wrinkles of age, the scars of disease, the marks of pain, and where all tears have been wiped away? Think what such a person might look like. However, after awhile, especially in the breaking of the bread, they come to see him for who he really is. Indeed, he still carries the marks of the crucifixion which are his badges of honor in his victorious fight against sin and death.

In the first reading, the cured lame man stands as a small signification that what happened to Jesus will touch each and everyone of us who believe in him. As a sign of this belief, we need to respect our bodies as his temples and extensions in the world. Our bodies are who we are and therefore we need to take care of them. Our bodies are us! This message emerges in our celebration of both Christmas and Easter where our humanity is elevated and then restored. This message touches all the doctrines and feasts of the Church. Yes, it touches moral theology, too. After all, in the various arguments about abortion, euthanasia, artificial contraception, etc. we are speaking not so much about the body as a shell or robot which we can manipulate as we wish; but rather, we are talking about our very selves and our personhood. People who see the issues of the Church disjointed do not realize that to allow selfishness to rewrite our moral principles would ultimately destroy the meaning of the coming of Christ into our world and his resurrection.

Title: To Share Food is to Share Life

Date: April 8, 1988 - Easter Friday

Readings: Acts 4:1-12 / Psalm 118:1-2,4,22-24,25-27 / John 21:1-14

You may have noticed by now how often the resurrection appearances are linked with meals. A few days ago we had the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus who recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Yesterday, the reading had Jesus taking and eating a fish to demonstrate that he had actually risen from the dead. Today, he directs his disciples to throw their net into the sea and there is a miraculous catch. When some of it is cooked, he "came over, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish." The Eucharistic themes are unavoidable. He makes himself present to us when we gather in his name and eat the bread of life. The symbol of the fish, because of its recurrent use, has also become a signature of a sorts for the presence of the risen Lord. Indeed, in the midst of persecution, Christians would often draw a fish upon the ground as a secret sign that it was safe to speak, that they were all among friends.

It is no accident that the Lord uses the occasion of the meal to repeatedly reveal himself to his friends. It is an ancient maxim that to share food is to share life. What better sign could there be then for the resurrection to be seen in its greatest glory. The disciples recall all the past times when they would gather with their master and share nourishment. We can imagine that these were occasions of great intimacy and bonding. When the Christian community was exiled from the synagogues, and we can see such friction as this in our first reading today, the meal they celebrated in common upon the following day increased in importance. In the early days of the Church, this agape or love feast included a regular banquet which included recalling the stories of Jesus and followed by the commemoration of the Lord's Last Supper with his friends -- the Eucharist. As time passed, and the first meal became unwieldy, it was dropped and the celebration of the sacrament became the principle meal that Christians celebrated as a family. It is still in this spiritual food that we make present the risen Jesus into our midst. He gives it to us and it is himself. Just as we need food for physical nourishment; so too do we need the Eucharist to nurture us and keep us spiritually alive in faith.

Title: Make Disciples of the Whole World

Date: April 9, 1988 - Easter Saturday

Readings: Acts 4:13-21 / Psalm 118:1,14-15,16-18,19-21 / Mark 16:9-15

Mark has Jesus appearing to his friends at table in today's Gospel and takes note of the fact that they were at first hesitant to believe that he had risen from the dead. Mark says that Jesus "took them to task for their disbelief and their stubbornness, since they had put no faith in those who had seen him after he had been raised." Remember, all except for John, had fled into hiding and Peter had even denied ever knowing him. They had practically given up on Jesus. His resurrection was now an occasion for Jesus to call them back to faithfulness -- to call them back to life.

The first reading shows us just how very successful Jesus was. Peter and John answered the priests and elders with courage and honesty: "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight for us to obey you rather than God. Surely we cannot help speaking of what we have heard and seen." There is no way under God's heaven that they can keep quiet now. Just as Jesus aided them in yesterday's Gospel to make a huge catch; now he will fulfill his promise to make them catchers of men. He tells them to go out and to make disciples of the whole world.

We also need to be so enthusiastic with the message of Easter that we have to proclaim it to everyone we meet. Jesus is alive! And, what's more, he wants all of us to have a share in his life. In a world steeped in sin, suffering, and death, this message is as vital today as ever before. In our prayer, our witness, and our proclamation we must bring this to people still blinded by the darkness of oppression and suffering. Just as the disciples were able to cure the lame man which incited the interrogation continued in today's first reading; we too can offer healing to others, if not always in body, then at least in spirit. We are the hands and feet and mouths of the risen Christ in the world -- he lives in us!

Title: My Lord & My God!

Date: April 16, 1988 - Second Sunday of Easter

Readings: Acts 4:32-35 / Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24 / 1 John 5:1-6 / John 20:19-31

Throughout this first week of Easter, the Gospels have related the resurrection appearances of Jesus. Last Sunday we had the discovery of the empty tomb; Monday there was the story of Jesus appearing to the women; Tuesday there was the sending of Mary Magdalen to tell the disciples of his restoration; Wednesday he revealed his identity in the breaking of the bread to the two men on the road to Emmaus; Thursday he reappeared to these two while they were recounting the incident to his disciples; Friday he appeared upon the shore while his friends were fishing; Saturday there was a brief summary from Mark of his earlier appearances and the narration of his coming to his followers while at table. Today, John offers us two occasions where Jesus appeared to his friends while assembled in the upper room.

Jesus has risen from the dead. Over and over again it is with this message that the Church saturates us. Today's Gospel has the doors locked in fear of the Jews who plotted Christ's death. But, doors locked because of fear are no barrier to the risen Christ. The only locks which might prevent him from being present in our lives are the ones we place upon ourselves.

We are surrounded by signs of God's presence and in this season of the year, the reawakening of nature ought to aid us in appreciating the meaning of Easter. Learning our catechism answers is not enough. If we say that God is everywhere, we run the risk of some sceptic asking us where we saw him last. What answer would we offer? And good philosophy teachers would remind us that God is in his creation, but only in the Incarnation can he be identified with it. Who is this God who is vast and infinite -- who is all-perfect and knows everything -- who is omnipotent and the source of all life -- who is one in three persons -- who can be revealed to us in the flesh of a frail individual called Jesus and be put to death and rise from the grave? Do we see the wonders of God around us and proclaim his glory or do we nurture doubts? Our faith reminds us that the Scriptures are both the word of God and of man and that they speak infallibly in regards to salvation truth -- do we believe this? Do we believe their testimony and that of the Church that Jesus rose from the dead? This is an important question during this season and it touches immediately upon our Gospel today. There are some who seem to believe easily and there are others who find it a most grueling pursuit.

Today I want to narrow this question to the abiding presence of Christ in the Church and the ongoing historical fact of the resurrection. I do not pretend to speak the last word on these matters; but, it may be important to speak all the same.

There was an Anglican Bishop of only a few years ago who publicly admitted in his cathedral that he did not believe the resurrection had ever occurred. Even men of faith may loose it. An interesting footnote to that incident was that a bolt of lightning immediately struck the building and destroyed an ancient stained-glass window. One uncharitable critic with a sense of humor remarked that God's aim was off and he just missed. Like Thomas in our Gospel, it is easy to discount the fantastic or the unusual. Indeed, this is the age of the doubting Thomas. Science has taught us to believe only what we can empirically prove. Because we cannot place the resurrection of Christ under a microscope, it is a matter, if not outrightly rejected, then ignored. Theologians, even in the Catholic camp, have endorsed an assortment of resurrectional theories which I must admit, if I accepted, would seriously dampen my faith. I recall one most famous thinker writing that if the bones of Christ were discovered tomorrow, his faith would remain intact. He would do this by spiritualizing the event into some kind of a-historical sphere beyond the datum of archeology. For me, such a statement already infers a level of doubt. Some of our thinkers would minimize the resurrection to the level of an internal feeling or experience with no physical counterpart or manifestation. There would be no visions of the risen Christ and the stories of the risen Christ a fiction made up to express what they were feeling in their hearts, especially at meal time. I am sorry. I cannot buy any of it. Maybe we all think too much? Maybe we want everything too explainable within very narrow limits? Faith is deeper than knowledge, even if one informs the other. There are plenty of men and women with intellects which could do circles around most of us here; but, they might not all be believers. First and foremost, we need to fall upon our knees and admit that the resurrection is a mystery. However, having said this, we must also acknowledge that it is very real. Everything that Jesus was, his entire person -- body, soul, and divinity, is transformed and glorified by the resurrection. He is like us in that his is a humanity perfected beyond our wildest dreams; he is unlike us in that he appears in locked rooms and to those with eyes of faith. I believe this is the response to which the Scriptures honestly testify. To doubly stress the fact that this resurrection has a deeper substance than that which some moderns would offer it, we have the story of Thomas. Because we could not all be there, he is our representative. He says, "I'll never believe it without probing the nail-prints in his hands, without putting my finger in the nail-marks and my hand into his side."

A second time Jesus appears in the locked room. Thomas is there. After wishing them peace, he says to Thomas, "Take your finger and examine my hands. Put your hand into my side. Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!" I cannot imagine this testimony from Scripture if this appearance was simply on the level of hallucination or a dream. No, Jesus said and meant these words. This particular testimony is for us more so than any previous age.

In the sacrament of the Eucharist today, the Church provides what is missing so that the risen Christ might be here for us as our food. Jesus again speaks, but this time his words may be more directed to us than to Thomas. "You became a believer because you saw me. Blest are they who have not seen and have believed." A day should not pass without our thanking God for the gift of faith and beseeching him for an ever greater share of understanding and belief. The sacraments must suffice until we meet Christ face to face. When we look upon the cup of his blood and the bread which is transformed into his body, we need to see with eyes of faith. He is here with us. His real being is present in these gifts, not just as empty symbols, not merely as devices to recall a past event, but actually here. My father had this kind of faith. Every time he saw the host and cup elevated he could not help but respond with those words of Thomas, "My Lord and my God!" Those need to be our words, if not upon our lips, then at least in our hearts.

Title: Two Kingdoms

Date: Monday, April 11, 1988 - Stanislaus, Bishop & Martyr

Readings: Acts 4:23-31 / Psalm 2:1-3,4-6,7-9 / John 3:1-8

Today, we celebrate the memorial on behalf of St. Stanislaus who in a most spectacular way illustrates the struggle which Christ began and which we continue. There are two kingdoms and they are both competing for our loyalty. In the story of Christ, we recall from our Lenten observances the occasion when he is challenged for being a king. He responds that his kingdom is not of this world. This is true; however, there are elements of it now breaking into the world. This is the Church. It is like an invading army into a hostile land. Christ who is our king did not spare himself from the battle and indeed, he became the war's first casualty. However, quite ironically, he turned what appeared as a momentary defeat into the means by which he would win the war. By his rising to new life, sin and death were conquered, thus ensuring that the kingdom of the world, despite incessant skirmishes, could never overcome us.

St. Stanislaus was born on July 26, 1030 in the diocese of Cracow, Poland. He was a well-learned man who offered wonderful sermons inspiring people to reform their lives. In 1072, he became bishop. The king at the time, Boleslaus II was living a life filled with infamy and excess. St. Stanislaus reproached him. No one, not even a king, was above the scrutiny of God. Finally, in 1079, the bishop's patience was exhausted and he excommunicated this worldly king. The story of Christ's encounter with the king of the world would be repeated. While he was praying in a small chapel outside Cracow, the king and his guards entered. The guards hesitated to carry out the evil king's demand. Further enraged, he himself murdered the good bishop with his own hands.

This pattern as we have seen was not new. It happened to Christ, it happened to the apostles who in our first reading even remarked about the resistence they were encountering; it happened a thousand years ago to St. Stanislaus; and it happens to modern martyrs today. Our consolation is that the part of the pattern we witness is incomplete. If our witness should take us into persecution and into various kinds of dying, then we also believe that we will rise with Christ.

Title: Human Dignity & the Community

Date: April 12, 1988 - Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

Readings: Acts 4:32-37 / Psalm 93:1,1-2,5 / John 3:7-15

In the news these days there is much which is troubling at home and abroad. Overseas violence seems as if it is at an all-time high and as usual the innocent are the greatest victims. Having said this, I must admit that there is much which lightens my heart about the Soviets. Reforms which we have mistrusted are proving themselves legitimate. Now the news is that they are planning to leave Afghanistan. I mention the Soviets this morning because many believe that communism began simply in the mind of Marx. However, various forms of sharing property in common go back much further. We find it in various religious communities and even elements of it in the New Testament. Indeed, the words from Acts strike us as drastic and revolutionary: "The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common."

Now don't worry, I am not saying that the Gospel message supports Marxism. It does not. There are important aspects that make it quite different from either Capitalism or Communism. Notice, the passage makes a point of stressing that they are all believers and of one mind and heart. Could we say that about the systems we see around us today? No. Even the Holy Father recently offered criticism of both systems, although he would have to admit that individual freedom and the rights of the Church have been more safeguarded in the West than in the East. The Christian correction is that the human person is much more than a factor in the means of production and possesses a precious and irreplaceable dignity. That is why many would sell all they have in order to take care of the unproductive, the poor, those who were counted as nothing by the rest of society. As Christians, our dignity is further elevated by what Jesus explains to Nicodemus, baptism. In this great sacrament we are reborn and become temples of the Holy Spirit, that same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead.

If we are only interested in profit and the Soviets only in conquest, then we would both do well to accept the Gospel and reform our lives. We need to trust Jesus about both earthly things and about the things of heaven. Atheism has no part in understanding the real picture of the world. Our greatest gain and fulfillment is to recognize our incompleteness without God and to plead with him to satisfy our longing to be joined to him. We all need to be born again, to turn away from earthly desires which leave God out, and to surrender ourselves into the hands of a God who loves us more than we can ever know.

Title: God So Loved the World

Date: Wednesday, April 13, 1988 - Martin I, Pope & Martyr

Readings: Acts 5:17-26 / Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7,8-9 / John 3:16-21

In our tradition we have often espoused what is technically called a two-tiered perspective of reality. We see earth below and heaven above. Following St. Augustine, we either see ourselves as members of the City of God or the City of the World. One is seen as positive and the other as negative. There is a definite value judgment made against the worldly. This view arose, not simply from the Scriptures, but from the persistent antagonism which Christ's disciples encountered. Even in our first reading today, they had to escape imprisonment in order to preach to the people. This understanding has had all sorts of consequences for the Church.

One of the initial incentives toward the cloistered life was to escape the evil world so as to live more in the world to come. Indeed, I recall reading an article about the Orthodox Churches in Russia being criticized because they had so confined their faith to within the walls of their churches and had so spiritualized their outlook, that little was done in the area of the social Gospel and outreach. Of course, that might be where their government would want them too, having a message which says little about the needs for our daily bread. Our Church's hesitance to acknowledge the separation of Church and State also flowed from this since it was held that without the guidance of the Church, the State might get out of hand and even become demonic. Hopefully, that will never happen here, although we must admit our laws do allow some very atrocious things these days.

If I may venture an opinion, our real obligation is not to perpetually image our world or society as evil but rather as a civilization which has both good and bad elements. It is a world with which we are intricately wound up and bound. As Christs Mystical Body, we need to bring his conversion to our world. It will not take place immediately. The Kingdom comes when it comes, and indeed, it is already beginning to break through -- that is the significance of Easter. Jesus says in our Gospel: "Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life."

The saint whom we recall today, Martin I, lived during an age when the Church and State were united. However, this did not resolve the conflict. St. Martin I censured the Emperor Constans who in retaliation had him seized and taken prisoner to Constantinople. He spent some time in a dungeon, but then was exiled to Chersonesus in 655. He suffered from ill-health. His friends abandoned him. He was left to die. What we have to remember is that to call our world to conversion is often to walk the same path as Christ.

Title: How Can We Answer God?

Date: September 30, 1988 - Friday of the Twenty-Sixth Week of the Year (II)

Readings: Job 38:1,12-21;40:3-5 / Psalm 139:1-3,7-8,9-10,13-14 / Luke 10:13-16

Our first reading and psalm remind us of how small we are in comparison to the glory of God. Job is almost shamed by God who in rhetorical question after question asks if he could possibly have been as great as him. Have you commanded the morning? Have you entered the sources of the sea or its abyss? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? "Tell me, if you know all," God taunts him. Job, a mere human being like ourselves, came to his senses and responded, "Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you?"

In our own words and deeds, we also need to pay homage to God who is the source of everything which exists. How often have we cast God's help aside, believing that we could handle our lives fine enough without him? And, how often has this strategy failed? How often have we allowed our words, or those of others, to pamper us and bloat us in prestige, while forgetting also to use our lips in prayer? The trouble with us who have been wondrously made, only a little less than the angels, is that we tend to think of ourselves too much and of God too little. Unless we are going through trial, as Job would, we tend to shove God into a corner of our lives. And like children, we not only hesitate to thank our heavenly Father for the gifts he gives us; we make our love conditional, and curse him when things fail to go our way.

It is only in Christ that we see that our faithfulness and praise of God needs to transcend all our personal wants and desires for elevation. Hearing Jesus, and following him, where ever he goes has to be the cornerstone of our lives. Loving and praising the glory of God, in thought, word, and deed, summarizes the very reason for our birth and now our rebirth in Christ.

Title: Share Your Bread with the Hungry

Date: February 8, 1987 - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Isaiah 58:7-10 / Ps. 112:4-5,6-7,8-9 / 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 / Matthew 5:13-16

"Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; Clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; ... (Is.). "You are the light of the world" (Mt).

Our readings today are very touching, but also, very challenging. Maybe even more so than is immediately evident. In the seminary I was a member of a social justice committee and such passages as found in Isaiah were very inspiring. Indeed, we are called to share our bread with the hungry, to shelter the oppressed and homeless, to clothe the naked, and definitely NOT to turn our back on our own. But even if we were to be advocates of all the social justice platforms offered today, this alone would not make us faithful to this passage or a true light to the world.

Jesus and Jesus alone is the true light. Apart from him any flicker of light we might offer to others would be swallowed by the shadows. Sharing your bread with the hungry is a noble task, but the trouble is, the one given bread will be hungry again tomorrow. We have many good-natured fellows who make others dependent upon them, unable to stand up for themselves with full human dignity. Or, we have just the opposite, those who feed their brothers and sisters once and feel no further obligation. And, on top of all this, we can forget the real hunger that is out there-- that needs to be fed-- that can only be satisfied in Christ. Christ comes to us in the bread of life, the Eucharist; he transforms us into himself, a bread which must be broken if it is to be given to others. It is not enough simply to care for the hungry, we have to LOVE them-- some of whom are in our very families or groups of friends. Not all the hungry are on the street. They know who they are. Some may be in our midst right now. Do any of you sense it? Is there an emptiness inside you? Is the belly of your soul crying out for nourishment? Don't be afraid to ask for help, come-- be fed-- there are priests and parishioners here waiting to hear from you-- come. Christ is waiting.

Isaiah also speaks of sheltering the oppressed and homeless. That is what this house is about. Can you feel the external oppression? It is pressing on the outer walls of this temple right now. When our values of action and of belief are openly ridiculed and distorted, then we are oppressed. This house is a shelter from all the wiles of a world intent upon our destruction. There are hurts out there-- come in and be healed. There are lies out there-- come in and hear the truth. There is violence out there-- come in and receive peace. There is coldness out there-- come in and be warmed by the flame of Christ's love. There is darkness out there-- come in and become a part of that light which is the Lord.

It is a little sad when someone hears the call of Christ and misinterprets it or only goes part way. There is a man in this city who even had a movie made about him, who has generously devoted his life to the care of the homeless. That is to be applauded. But, like so many, I have to wonder if he heard the call clearly. Why? He sold all he had, gave up his job, and even abandoned his wife and family to enter upon his crusade. Can we rebuke one responsibility for another? Can we exchange one set of mouths to be fed for others? Can we cause homelessness in order to give a home for others? I do not want to judge anyone, but the very same reading we have today which speaks of so many deeds of mercy also reminds us not to turn our back on our own. In Christ, and only in Christ, you are the light of the world. When does this light shine? It shines when a husband and wife love each other unselfishly, open to the gift of new life. It shines when a brother tells his sister, "I'm sorry, forgive me." It shines when a father welcomes his alienated son back home. It shines when a couple love each other so much that they discipline their love in chaste giving. It shines when one friend gives another a scarf or sweater for Christmas. Done in Christ, all things great and small, make the light of Christ shine all the more bright.

Title: Death is Robbed of Its Sting

Date: February 10, 1987 - St. Scholastica, Virgin

Readings: Song 8:6-7 / Psalm 148:1-2,11-12,13-14,14 / Luke 10:38-42


Our first reading, from the Song of Solomon, comforts us with the sweet admonition that love is as strong as death. In Jesus, we know that love is so strong that it even conquers death. Death as we experience it is a mystery which seems forever counterposed against love. Even in the great romances, we are most touched by the tragic love which skirmishes with death. Take for example the play of Romeo and Juliet. So great was their love that they could not bear to be separated, by either their families or by death. Take the tale of Orpheus, who even bargains in the pagan nether world to free his love. And, take the reality of Jesus, who could love his murderers so much, that he would undergo a criminal's death to save us.

The saint we commemorate today, Scholastica, loved her brother very much. And, upon one of his visits, she pleaded with him to stay the night with her and the nuns, to pray and to speak to them of God's love. He refused, saying that he could not spend even one evening away from his monastery. A great storm arose, and he was unable to depart until the next morning. A few days later, St. Scholastica died. So great was her love, so great was the concern of the God who loved her, that her holy desire to spend some time with her brother and to be edified by his counsel, was made possible. Again, in the life of one joined to Christ, death had been robbed of its sting.

If you get a chance today, you might turn to the Song of Solomon in your bibles and reread that beautiful passage we had today. Do we possess this kind of love? Is it the kind of love that gives life to others? We need to remember, "Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away."

Title: Homily for Shaw/O'Brien Wedding

Date: June 20, 1987

Readings: Genesis 2:18-24 / Psalm 103:1-2,8,13,17-18a / 1 John 4:7-12 / Matthew 5:1-12

Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists are all agreed: human beings are the loneliest creatures in the world. Well, we did not have to wait for the modern era to learn that. Even in the most ancient of the Scriptures, man found himself dealing with his most deep aloneness. God was not so distant that he left man alone to his solitary life, either. Our first reading has God observing, "It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate." The wonder of this creation was that while this companion would share a common humanity, there would forever be a difference between them. In the eyes of God they would be equal in dignity but not exactly the same. There would be a complementarity about them, but man would remain man, and woman, as woman. Ironically, it would be the difference in them as persons that would make possible the greatest of unions, the act by which a man and woman reach out through the coldness of their solitude to the warmness of their intimacy -- becoming one flesh.

So great would be this natural relationship of marriage, that with the coming of the new covenant, Christ would elevate it to the level of a sacrament, revealing just how close he was to his bride, the Church. Forever and always, Christ would love and be faithful to us. Forever and always, must a husband and wife be faithful to each other.

We all have friends, but a spouse is one's best friend. We all have loves, but a spouse must be one's first love. Even Jesus does not compete with marital love. To the extent that a husband and wife love each other, they love Christ. That is why for the Christian such things as failed marriages create such hurt and scandal.

The challenge for us all is to reflect Christ's love in our lives. For spouses, this must first begin at home. There is much we could learn from our readings today on this. Like God, we too are called to be kind and merciful. Like God, a married couple need to be just to each other and to their offspring. John in our second reading goes on to say that, "... as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us." That is the secret, in everything they do, they must show God's love. Live for one another -- be poor in spirit; treat this union with reverence -- be gentle; act justly -- hunger for what is right; forgive each other -- you'll have mercy shown you; be virtuous -- rejoice in purity of heart; make peace at home -- maybe then we can extend it elsewhere.

Be totally imbued with the Beatitudes. Make them second nature. Pray for and with each other. There are many things which lead people astray or make them cold or callous; keep your sights on each other. Be happy with your values and encourage one another in living the holy life.

You both have from this day forward one special helpmate, not just to share a life with or with whom to raise a family, but a special companion to aid you in the growth of holiness. Just think, sanctity and peace may be the greatest gift you ever give each other -- a gift which can extend throughout this life and into the next -- a gift which can touch numerous lives, giving sanctifying life to both the children whom you are open to receiving and to all those whom you meet. It is a holy vocation of love which you are choosing.

May you both always grow in the love which you ratify today. May you always be happy.

Title: God Does Not Forget Us

Date: March 1, 1987 - Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Isaiah 49:14-15 / Ps. 62:2-3,6-7,8-9 / 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 / Matthew 6:24-34

"Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you."

Our first reading today is one of the shortest of the year; and yet, although the words are few, their meaning is deep and their significance-- touching. They are words which can offer great consolation in times of hardship, if only we would really believe them. Jesus lived these words. As the reflection of the Father and His love in our world, he embraced the outcasts and made them his friends; he touched the sick and made them well; he went out to sinners and offered them forgiveness; and he became our brother in dying, so that we might share his new life. In all this, God did not forget us even though His children might turn their backs on Him. Jesus even makes reference to these words of consolation, when on his way to the Cross. Those of you who pray the Stations will well remember it. He tells the women of Jerusalem not to fear and weep so much for him, as for the children to be born of them. He foretells a time when love will become sterile and the barren womb blessed. He can well say this, for he has realized in his own flesh, indeed, his very person, the love which is eternal and yet which is rejected.

If the Lord is our foundation, if it is his love and constant care that matters to us, then this kind of trust will help us a great deal in the uncertainties of life and in the fickleness of human friendships. Of course, some relationships by their very nature seem to reflect the human/divine fellowship more clearly. Not too long ago I was in the hospital with an elderly man who got to see his wife a few moments before serious surgery. He said to her as he touched her face, "You know who loves you, don't you?" And then, ever so softly, with tears in her eyes, she responded, "I know, you do-- I love you, too." For half a century they had loved and cared for each other. I don't know about you, but that says something to me about my commitment to love as a Christian and as a priest. Most important of all, it gives me a glimpse of just how much God loves and never forgets a single one of us-- not even for a moment.

He is our rock, our salvation, our hope, our strength, and safety. We are to surrender our lives to him in trust and love-- for he loved us first. Apart from him, we would have nothing. No, we would be nothing.

In the Gospel, Jesus practically begs us to trust the Father and His unceasing love and concern for us. So much more important are we than the birds of the sky or the lilies of the field. We can respond to Gods love with love. He desires for us to discard our fears and believe in His saving power. How often we must fail Him? We worry about so many things. The money is short. The children are difficult to control. The job is boring or too straining. School work is piling up and the studies for tests are driving us crazy. A special friend or even a spouse in their distance to us, might be a cause for fear or loneliness. Our worries are many. Too many. We kill ourselves with worry. The Church having the mind of Christ on this matter and yet so very aware of our tendency to fret over things large and small, even daily petitions the Lord in the Mass, following The Lord's Prayer, to DELIVER US FROM ALL ANXIETY. Notice it says, not SOME, not UNNECESSARY, but ALL ANXIETY. It is not from God.

No matter what comes, God will be there with us-- even if His presence is hidden behind the veil of pain and His will glimpsed only piecemeal through the flickering haze of human history. If everyone we love should abandon us, either through death, pain, or neglect, He will never abandon us. The Lord is our Everlasting Friend. A sign that we truly believe with all our hearts and minds in this friend and in the Father who sends us both His Son and the Spirit who is Love Personified, is that we trust as Christ himself trusted-- not just externally for others to see-- but to be at PEACE in ourselves.

I would like to leave you today with those final words offered by our Lord in his Gospel to those of us weak in faith: "Your heavenly Father knows all that you need. Seek first his kingship over you, his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides. Enough, then, of worrying about tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Today has troubles enough of its own." Wise words. The troubles may come. But with them need also to come the trust and faith and love made possible in us by Christ. If we find it lacking, then let us ask for it, pray for it, live for it. It will be given.

Title: Invitation to the Little Ones of the World

Date: July 5, 1987 - Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Zechariah 9:9-19 / Psalm 145:1-2,8-9,10-11,13-14 / Romans 8:9,11-13 / Matthew 11:25-30

"Father, Lord of heaven and earth, to you I offer praise; for what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children. Father, it is true. You have graciously willed it so."

We may remember, that long ago, when the Messiah at last came into the world, that he was not all that well accepted. The stories of his rejection are numerous, indeed, they fill the entire Gospel. When he came into the world, he chose to be born like all the rest of us, as a child. In the quiet of a cold night he came, with only a small star shining above to herald this newborn king. But, if he was a king, the only mantle he wore were his swaddling clothes, and his throne, a meager manger among a court of animals. His mother and foster father were simple people, and yet a people made rich in their holiness and love for him. The first to see him were not the elite among his own people, but mere shepherds still covered in the dust and sweat of a hard day's labor.

Perhaps they saw something of the lamb in him, in a city filled with wolves? And when the wise men or kings finally did come, they saw something akin to them in this child, for they were all strangers in an alien land. So much did they realize it that they fled instead of informing the Jewish king, Herod, of the Messiah's presence. They did well, for Herod would be the forerunner of all those to come who would reject this child of promise. As a man, Jesus would even speak of himself as the prophet rejected in his own land. The zealots looked for a military general who would come with great blood-letting might and power. The pharisees looked for one who would come hopefully in the distant future, one who would be like themselves and who would reaffirm their own legalism and security. It was no wonder that they were all terribly disappointed in this Jesus.

He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He associated with the poor and with the unclean. How could he really be important if he found it so easy to relate to these kinds of people. Perhaps, they thought, he was no better than the rest of the trash? He forgave sins -- by what authority? He healed the sick -- could it be by the power of demons? The so-called learned of Israel would charge him with this!

Messiah? How could he be? He traveled around, surrounded not by other learned scribes but by stupid men of the earth -- dumb fishermen and traitoress tax collectors. The only one among them that showed some promise in his foresight and knowledge was the last to join him, that one they called Judas Iscariot. Jesus had virtually nothing more than the clothes on his back and lived essentially from the charity of others. Even the room in which he and his friends celebrated his last supper was simply on loan to them. He himself said one time that the son of man has no where to rest his head.

Jesus is the most shining example that just because a person may have nothing, it does not mean they are nothing. His life and message has touched us like no other has.

We too need the same kind of humility. The Lord showed just how much when he reprimanded his disciples for keeping curious children away from him. Jesus told them that it was for such as these that the his kingdom belonged. Not childish, but child-like in our lives and faith we need to become. It is in this kind of witness that God most brilliantly shines forth. Sometimes things like wealth, social position, and even faith when it becomes self-righteous and knowledge, when it becomes snobbish, can get in the way of this kind of humility. Like a small child trusting his parents no matter what -- that is the trust we need in regards to our Heavenly Father. When we live like that ourselves, think how much more open we can become to others who are small, weak, broken, and hurting. The irony of our faith, which shines in figures like St. Francis of long ago and Mother Teresa of today, and indeed, in many saints whom we may never know -- is that in Christ, weakness can become strength and adversity a time of miraculous witness.

Title: Bringing in the Harvest

Date: July 12, 1987 - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings: Isaiah 55,10-11 / Psalm 65,10.11.12-13.14 / Romans 8,18-23 / Matthew 13,1-23 or 13,1-9

Our readings and psalm this morning are marvelously interwoven. They speak of creation, growth, and re-creation. In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah uses the image of rain making the earth fertile to illustrate how his words are also to bear fruit in the faithfulness of the chosen people. Our psalm paints the picture of a teeming agricultural paradise where God's blessing causes the seed which falls on good ground to produce a rich harvest. Our third reading offers the testimony of Paul who views all of creation groaning and in agony as it experiences its growth pains from the old to the new order. And our Gospel, it has Jesus using the tensive language of parable to speak about the seed of faith.

Throughout most ages there has been a preoccupation with the seed. It has only been since the days of the Industrial Revolution and the modern distribution of labor, that many of us have lost sight of some of the natural necessities like seed and its symbolic significance. We buy bread at the store, we don't have to grow wheat. We purchase most if not all of our vegetables from others; I wonder how much thought have we ever given to its planting and harvesting? It can become easy for us to forget the importance of the seed. Without it, plants would cease to be. Without it, the life-cycle would be so disrupted that even animal life on this planet would eventual exhaust itself. And yet, even in the depths of who we are, we all began as no more than a seed, a tiny little treasure-house, bursting with life.

In the days long past, there was a reverence for the seed which approached worship and awe. To the superstitious, it was a magical thing; to the religious, it was among the most miraculous of God's gifts. The people of Jesus' time lived close to the earth, they had to in order to survive. The seed and water and good soil meant the difference between life and death. The prophets, including Jesus, were well aware of this. The Gospel today is an example of this understanding; but, there are many others too -- like in the story of the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed, becoming a great bush or tree. We need to recover something of their sense for the natural if we are really going to appreciate our readings today. Just imagine, locked away in the most meager seed, hidden behind its shell, is a life organized in such a way that a fully mature plant can come from it. The colossal redwood forests, some of which go back before the incarnation of Christ into our world, they all began as seeds. The grass in our lawns, all began as seed. Much of the food we eat, began as seed. Could you create a tree or even a blade of grass from scratch? No. None of us could. And yet, this insignificant thing, maybe the size of a piece of dust, can be filled with information and life to do all these things; indeed, in doing so, it makes possible a whole new generation of seeds. I recall in school, some years past, we got into a fairly academic and maybe nonsensical argument related to this very point. The question was, did the plant live for the seed, or the seed for the plant? We never really answered it. Only eggheads could get into a debate like that. A good farmer would simply take that seed, plant it, take pride in being a steward in God's creation, and harvest it for the many who would otherwise be hungry.

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us a story about the mysterious seed, something all his listeners could relate to, so that they might catch a glimmer of what the gift of faith means. It is an awkward tale he tells. A farmer went sowing. He was definitely clumsy. He dropped some seed on the footpath and birds ate it up. He dropped some of it on rocky ground and it immediately sprouted with anemic roots and shriveled away. Again, he was a poor farmer. However, another interesting detail is here that we might miss. Jesus says the seed grew at once. A farming friend of mind told me a few years ago that Jesus would have gotten along well in his parts, because saying that seed immediately sprouts is a tall tale. And it is true, Jesus is stretching his image here to fit what he wants to say about faith. The farmer goes on to drop seed among thorns where it was choked to death. Either this was one accident-prone farmer or he was very dumb. But finally, maybe despite himself, some seed is dropped upon good ground. But, what luck this stupid farmer had! What a tall-tale my farmer friend from Iowa would yell -- this grain yielded a hundred- or sixty- or thirty-fold! You can almost hear Jesus' audience respond with a shuttered hush.

Jesus later goes on to explain his parable to his disciples. The seed eaten by birds on the path represents the man who hears the Good News, but he fails to really understand what Christ and his kingdom is about. He is easily misled, and the evil one may steal what little he has. Sometimes we may find these kind of people in our own midst, who say they believe, but who all too readily follow the fads of the day, even to the point of forsaking the message of Jesus and his Church. The seed that shriveled on rock was like a man filled with the satisfaction which comes with conversion, but when the excitement has passed, he quickly falls away. His roots only reached to the pleasures and gratification which comes with faith, his roots did not pierce to a love of God, simply for his being God. This is important, because we can confuse God for the gifts he gives us and when those gifts and satisfactions, even from prayer, are not what we want them to be, we might fall away instead of finding them as occasions for further growing in the dark night of the soul that we must first go through to reach the bright new day offered by the kingdom. I guess what I mean to say is that the seed lost on rocky ground was more in love with itself than God. It is no wonder, that added to this, any kind of persecution or bigotry, whether it be explicit or hidden, may cause these rootless seeds to fall by the wayside all the sooner. The seed among thorns is choked, just as fears and greed may choke the life of God in us. Who is our God? Is it Wealth? Is it Power? Is it Prestige? And most terribly, is it Fear? That must be the most terrible of all the contenders against God! Fear -- anxiety -- it can choke God's grace in us; we need to make Christ the Master of our lives -- not Fear -- never Fear. As hard as it might be, we need to trust him no matter what. If not, then we were never totally become the disciple we were called to be.

Like the seed in good soil, we need to allow the seed of faith -- of God's grace -- to take root and grow in us. In the waters of our baptism it was planted in our dying in Christ; in those same waters it is to rise and bloom. Our faith cannot be stagnant, if so, it dies. A hundred-fold it has to reach out and embrace others. In the way we live our lives and in what we say, we witness and throw off further seed to be planted and to grow.

Before I close I would ask you all to think about two questions. First, ask yourself, what have I done to help allow God to grant me an ever greater share of faith and holiness? Make a list. Second, ask yourself, how many people during my lifetime have I helped to receive the gift of faith and to become a Catholic Christian? How many? Make a list. And if you should be a little disappointed, then start anew in allowing God's love and life to touch you and through you, others. Please do this. The harvest is ready, we need to bring it in.

Title: Homily for the Memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekawitha

Date: July 14 1987

Readings: Exodus 2,1-15 / Psalm 69,3.14.30-31.33-34 / Matthew 11,20-24

Those of you who follow the calender of the saints like myself may have been surprised today to discover that the Church in the United States has substituted the memorial Mass of St. Camillus de Lellis for that of our own Blessed Kateri Tekawitha. Those of you who might not know who Saint Camillus was, there was a beautiful portrayal of his life contained on the bulletin this past Sunday. It told of an incredibly strong and worldly man who chose the life of a soldier. However, his loses at gambling and treatment for an illness that had particularly infested his legs, pressed him into service for the sick. Experiencing a conversion of heart, he devoted his life to the sick and dying. So great was his fervor that he became a priest and even founded an order to carry on this most lowly but admirable work. As for Kateri Tekawitha, she stands forth as a sign that saints are also in our midst. She was a young Indian girl who showed her love for Christ by loving with a virgin's heart and surrendering her life in the cause of this love.

May we all be like these two followers of Christ, by devoting our love and lives to Christ. Who knows, a few years hence, one of you in this very congregation, may be held up also as an example of holiness for all others to imitate; you might even bump one of the older saints off the list yourself. There is nothing in the way of our being saints except our own stubbornness and weakness. If you want another example of greatness emerging from those who are weak, look at our first reading. Moses was a child condemned. He was abandoned to the waters, probably doomed to die. But, he was rescued, raised as a prince, and became God's chosen liberator for his people. We too are lowered to die in water, the waters of baptism. What we need to remember, is that just as God did not abandon Moses, or St. Camillus, or Blessed Kateri Tekawitha, so too does he not forget us. Out of the waters of baptism, we rise with Christ to new life -- out of these waters, we too are well on our way to holiness and being saints, if only we will continue to cooperate with God's grace.

Title: Our True Treasure

Date: August 2, 1987 - Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings: Isaiah 55,1-3 / Psalm 145,8-9.15-16.17-18 / Romans 8,35.37-39 / Matthew 14,13-21

A few years ago, I recall watching a re-run episode of the old series, The Twilight Zone, which I think might help us to appreciate God's Word today. In it, three robbers made an incredible heist of gold bars. It was worth a fortune. However, the gold was too hot to handle. So, one of the men, being a scientist, devised a way for them to go into suspended animation or sleep, to wake up healthy and rich a hundred years hence. They bet their lives on this proposition for wealth. A hundred years later, they awaken from their slumber. Sometime during their oblivion, a rock had fallen and had broken a glass cylinder containing one of their friends. He was dead. There were only two left. So much the better. They would be richer for it -- they thought. The remaining two men exited their cave in the desert with their loot. The sun was hot. Civilization was no longer where it used to be. The truck they had counted upon broke down. They fought with each other. Greed set in. The water became scarce. A tussle breaks out and suddenly, there is only one man left. He laughs. He is rich beyond his dreams. He carries the heavy bars in the hot desert sun. Just when he thinks he is finished, he meets a couple of people in some kind of futuristic hot-rod. He falls to the ground. "Water, water," he begs, "Give me some water and I'll make you rich beyond your dreams!" He holds out the gold. One of the people whom he meets pities the dying man but finds him very curious. For everyone knew that in the latter twenty-first century, gold was easily accessible and virtually worthless.

The story may be science fiction, but the plight is one which has always faced us. It is the need for the proper priorities in our lives -- and in the case of the Scriptures, the rightful place of God. The first reading asks us, "Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?" We can be like Midas and have everything we touch turn to gold, but if that is our only treasure, we'll starve and die. We as Christians also believe that unless the body and blood of Christ nurtures us as our spiritual food, our souls will weaken and possibly die. Isaiah uses the image of our natural need for food and drink to make more clear how we need the life-giving nourishment of God. Without him, we are nothing. Without him, our other treasures are valueless. Without him, we cannot be totally the people we are called to be. Without him, we are ants going nowhere, fools without a purpose. Without him, no amount of food or water will keep us alive, for death comes for us all.

In our second reading, the theme is continued, Paul shows in his questions how absurd it should be that anything might separate us from Christ. Christ, unlike gold or wealth -- Christ, unlike power or prestige -- Christ, unlike fads and fashion -- Christ does not loose his value for us. Paul says that neither death nor life, neither human nor angelic power, neither present nor future, neither persecution nor hunger -- shall separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus.

We are called to him, to drink and eat of the presence of his love. But, do we always accept the invitation? We might ask ourselves a lot of questions to find out. When we travel, do we attempt to locate churches where we might fulfill our obligation for Sunday Mass? Do we faithfully fulfill it at home? If we have children, have they received the sacraments, learned their prayers, and studied their catechism? When we go to Mass are we in a state of grace to receive communion or might we still need Confession? Do we needlessly avoid communion when we might be permitted to receive it? Do we pray at home? Do we share our faith with friends? In the day-to-day living, do we live lives of charity to help clothe and feed others -- not only materially, but spiritually with Christ? All these things and more are among the questions we might ask. I think a sign of Christ's priority in our lives is revealed in how readily we want to share him with others. Some people might be more willing to offer a cigarette or a piece of gum than Christ. That shows sometimes just how low on the list we place him. The irony is, that each and every one of us is on the top of Christ's list. He underwent all the pains of our treachery for each and every one of us personally. By name he calls us. By name he dies for us. By name, he now calls us forward and even offers his own flesh as our food and his blood as our drink.

We might notice in the Gospel story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, that it says that everyone ate their fill. No one was forgotten. So it is at our table. Some time back I suggested that we might try to bring someone to Mass who may have been away for awhile or who is searching for meaning and might find it here in our midst.

In the weeks following, there were few new faces. The Lord gives us his Eucharist, not simply for us to hide it away and consume it in secret. We need to feed others as well. We need to invite them to our worship and pray for their conversion, so that we might celebrate this banquet together.

Title: God is Not Elected

Date: Special - Unlisted 1987

Readings: Unlisted

Some of you may be familiar with the play which was later made into a movie, entitled "Mass Appeal". In it there were two main characters: one was the elderly well-liked pastor who told jokes but never really took stands or challenged his people; the other was a young deacon who took stands so fiercely that his preaching stung the people and they became angry. I suppose the ideal must be somewhere in the middle, for leaders and members of the Church to speak with tact and to live lives beyond hypocrisy or scandal. I mention this as I begin to speak to you today, because I am unsure what cords my words might touch in you. I am not always even sure what many of you think about me or about priests in general. Good things I hope.

On Tuesday night, NBC ran a special anchored by Maria Shriver entitled, "God Is Not Elected". It centered upon dissent in the Church of America, an issue made topical by recent events, racy headlines, and the Pope's up-in-coming trip to the United States. One priest-friend of mine said he liked the special and that he thought it realistically represented the majority situation among Catholics in our country today. That may be the case. But, I always ask crazy questions, "Ought it to be the case?" I will be honest with you. I did not like it. It is hard to tell you why. Some of my reasons may not be all that persuasive. The plight it presented in the Church might be partially our fault. If we had been better teachers, maybe people would not be so stupid, I don't know? Maybe, many of us only know or believe what we want, no matter how persuasive the argument? It is not clear to me, what, if any place exists for dissent in the Church. Certainly, it would not be the kind highlighted on television. So often all those issues of controversy are grouped together. Further, the secular mind is sometimes housed in Christian bodies. We become so much a product of our times that we begin to loose our grasp upon Christ's Kingdom which is timeless. Homosexuality -- Abortion -- Contraception -- Test-Tube Babies -- Married Priests -- Women Priests -- Extra-Marital Intercourse -- Divorce and Remarriage -- and the list, I guess, goes on, although I would bet you most of the issues would have sex or sexuality in there somewhere. I would further bet you that most of the people in that show who disagreed on one or more of these issues have never even read what the Scriptures have to say about these matters, not to mention the documents from Rome to which they love to refer.

One of my former teachers, Father Curran, with whom I have many differences, is at least learned upon the issues and knows first-hand what the Church Magisterium and his critics have to say. My fear is that most of us might be content to allow Catholics, no better informed or less so than ourselves, like Mrs. Shriver, to do our thinking for us. Worst yet, we Catholic Christians might allow non-Catholics or even a non-Christian dominated media to spoon feed us their false presuppositions or biases. It is easy for us to be gullible when we forget the homilies before we get out of the Church door. It is easy to be misinformed when we fail to read any Catholic publications. It is easy when we allow the old ethic of independent individualism to dominate our thinking. Of course the Pope is wrong! Why, because they answer, "I" disagree with him, or better yet, because "I" agree with Dan Rather or with Phil Donahue! Poor reasons. People do their faith a disservice when they make their most crucial life and faith decisions simply from television news or magazines which seek by their nature the controversial. Even in this city, one of the nation's greatest newspapers has an editorialist in religion who mocks our leadership and therefore our faith. And they don't play fair. I don't think it is really vice, probably just a terrible blind spot for many of them. You notice that when you have a science report, you have a science expert; when you have sports, you have a person with sports expertise; goodness, even when you have the weather, you have a meteorologist -- but, who do we get for religion. Who do you occasionally get on television, Andrew Greeley? The man professes himself that he is no theologian but a sociologist -- ah, but that might be more in keeping with mass consumption. Nothing against the poor lady from the other night, but anyone who knows the littlest bit about our faith would know that her sad remarks never touched the depth where real faith and therefore, where real dissent might occasionally be found. I have trouble about dissent and or putting our dirty laundry in public to begin with, but so often it cannot even be done intelligently or honestly. The media assumes that you can put anybody in charge of religion! You know how many religions there are in the world? The Catholic Church alone encompasses more than the 55-65 million in America that the show the other night wanted to make the boss for the rest of the world -- there are now over 800 million Catholics on this planet. The Church has a history which goes all the way back to Christ, some 2000 years. Put Joe Smoe in charge of religion -- sure, anybody can do it. The news reporting on religion is sometimes like a janitor speaking about the newest Shuttle prototype. See what I mean. And, what happens when these so-called experts don't know things -- I fear they make it up. They go by their feelings. Examples? We have heard it so much, many of us may even now believe it. Dr. Ruth coins one in her philosophy: "Anything goes as long as no one gets hurt." Or, if you like feelings, take these cases: (1) It is okay for gays to do their thing because conversion is impossible and life-long chastity is too much to ask of them; (2) It is okay for girls to have abortions because they are too young or because it would hurt their careers or because it would ruin their lifestyle -- poor girl; (3) It is alright for a couple to use the seed of another man to get a woman pregnant in artificial insemination even though it requires masturbation on the man's part and adultery between the donor and the wife; (4) It is too sad that a couple cannot have a child, so therefore they opt for conception in a test-tube where the marital act is by-passed, a third party (the doctor) intervenes, and possibly other embryos if unused would be frozen or disposed of (analogous to abortion); (5) Women see priesthood as a just fruit of the social movement which would open up the structures of true power to them which is long overdue -- avoiding the touchy issue of vocation or call as simply and totally a gift from God; (6) It is cruel to ask people not to remarry after divorce even if the previous bond was indeed real and lawful.

The show the other night exhibited that all too familiar mentality that classified all these teachings on the same level as the discipline of the Western Church to oblige her priests to celibacy. That is a policy or discipline -- the rest are not. Not even the Pope can change those things. He is not God. Neither are we. If a Pope tomorrow came out and said abortion was okay, he would fall into heresy. And, according to the ancient understanding of the Church, a Pope which falls into heresy, stops being Pope! The Holy Spirit has protected the Church on that score. Homosexual activity is condemned even in the Scriptures. So is Masturbation. Christ did not ordain women, we would have to be absolutely certain that he would allow it before we could do it -- otherwise, the sacraments and the orders founded by Christ himself would be jeopardized. As for divorce, the new covenant does not recommend it, and without an annulment, which simply means there was no previous bond to begin with, remarriage is impossible -- even if you were to go through the rite. The bond is self-reflective of Christ's bond with his bride the Church, he will never violate his covenant of love with us nor will he destroy the bond of matrimony as a sacrament -- for any cause. These are not all new issues. Henry XIII with his marital woes could tell you that. Christians in Alexandria who were forbidden in the first couple of centuries from using crocodile tongue as a contraceptive could tell you that. The Church's condemnation of homosexuality among the Roman soldiers could tell you that. The steadfast insistence among our missionaries in the early Hawaiian settlements against crushing the skulls of unwanted female infants or against potions inducing abortion in the Far East could tell you that. And the ancient Gnostic cults, which denied that Christ became a man -- they had women priests. Now they are gone. History has devoured them while the Church is still with us. What does that say to us? Read about it. Learn about it. Pray about it. And then if you dissent, be humble, if there is anything right in what you think, its day will come, and if not, and the Magisterium (the Pope and Bishops) is right, and our teaching does say that the Holy Spirit looks especially after them, then we have brought neither ourselves nor others to error. I don't know about you, but I am unwilling to risk my salvation, and especially that of others, on my own preferences and narrow scope of things. I look to the Church which pulls along with itself a treasury of faith and witness which would take eternity to penetrate.

Title: God's Fatherly Concern

Date: October 8, 1987 - Thursday of the Twenty-Seventh Week (I)

Readings: Malachi 3:13-20 / Psalm 1:1-2,3,4,6 / Luke 11:5-13

Our Gospel today is one which flows easily from the theme of yesterday's when we recalled Christ's teaching us to pray "Our Father, ...." Today also, he reminds us of this natural relationship which is self-reflective of the Heavenly Father's love. The Gospel begins by speaking of the Christian's obligation to be charitable, even when it is inconvenient and difficult to do so. However, it then switches gears somewhat and refers to the kindness of earthly fathers to their children. This passage ends with the sentence, "If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." Throughout the long history of the Church, it may be sometimes we take the analogy too far, or maybe really not far enough, in imaging God above as a stern, vengeful, and punishing Father. It is true that while he is a just Father, he is also merciful. I mentioned earlier on that there is something self-reflective about this most special Fatherhood. In his love we see something of who we are to be as fathers and mothers to one another. Conversely, in our love as Christians we need to find something of God's fatherly concern for us. It is interesting to note that Christ uses the most familiar of relationships to reveal something of the God we follow. In the order of grace, Christ makes us adopted sons to the Father and shows us that he cares about us. In Christ's relationship to us, we are reminded of the analogy of Christ as the groom and the Church as his bride. Between the pages of these two relationships, the whole story of salvation is written.

Title: Jesus Drives Evil Away

Date: October 9, 1987 - Friday of the Twenty-Seventh Week (I)

Readings: Joel 1,13-15;2,1-2 / Psalm 9,2- / Luke 11,15-26

Our Gospel today might strike one as wholly appropriate as we enter into the Halloween season. The stores are filled with Jack-o-Lanterns, paper skeletons, and monster masks. Many of the local television stations are running horror movie marathons. Admittedly, I watch these things too, although I am more a fan of Japanese rubber monsters that walk over cities than in the kind that "go bump in the night". We seem to almost celebrate the dark side. It is as if we are fascinated by evil. We have all felt it. I grew up with the old serial "Dark Shadows," in which many of us actually cheered for the vampire Barnabas Collins. I suppose there is nothing wrong in a little fun and especially in a good story of good versus evil. After all, our Gospel relates to us how the good of Jesus could drive evil away. However, what does alarm me is the growing fascination with evil which seems more than a harmless or amusing aside. There are rock entertainers who wear inverted crosses and for some time the strange slogan "Satan Lives!" has been associated with the Heavy Metal music and the drug culture. A few years ago, in the first "Oh God!" movie, George Burns remarked about how strange it was that people could go to a movie like "The Exorcist" believing in the devil, but still not have any room in their lives for God.

We, like the possessed person in the Gospel, need to fill ourselves with God so that evil may have no place to reside in us. We are baptized as living temples of the Holy Spirit. As such our bodies are sacred and we should seek to care for them. There is nothing ugly about us being in flesh, after all, Christ took upon himself our human nature, too. We are holy creatures, creatures who belong to the light and not the dark, who were made for God, and not for a small ban of renegade angels to debase. The victory in Christ is already won, there is no one and nothing to compare with God -- our hearts belong to him.

Title: The Kiss of Death

Date: Unlisted 1987

Readings: Unlisted

The title for these few words might make one imagine a romantic setting where some daring spy has an affair with a deadly enemy agent. Such is how our minds and imaginations work these days. The biologist might fantasize in some poor anthropomorphic way about the love of two black widow spiders. He loved her so much, knowing that her embrace guaranteed both new life and the risk of his own. Snap! She bit off his head -- oblivion, the end of love -- now he is merely fodder for a horde of cannibalistic brood. Oh how sweet the kiss of death can be. Perhaps the damsel being drained of her blood would think so as she was enraptured by the vampires which emerge from late night movies. Well enough, these might make interesting asides; what I want to speak about is a far more realistic kiss, a kiss which has touched the lives of each and every one of us.

It is the story about a lonely figure in a garden. His friends are asleep. He had hoped they could spend awake what little time he had remaining with them, but alas, the flesh was too weak. All are asleep, except for one other. He had called this man friend. He had trusted him with their traveling purse. He had called him to follow him by name. And if Christ most loves the sinner, then this was the one man besides his beloved John whom he held closest to his heart. His name was Judas Iscariot. He came quietly in the night. Drawing near, he greeted his Master with a kiss. It had begun. All the sin that had ever erupted into the world, or which ever would, was a part of that kiss. A thousand, a million, no a billion and more lips touched his check in a gesture which should have meant love. Instead, it was an act of the most dire betrayal. Voices in history would echo the cry, "It would have been better if this man had never been born!" Maybe. Does he now reside beside Satan? I don't know. What tears he must have cried in knowing that he could not force Christ to be something he was not. No, he would not liberate with arms or with trumpet blasts. He would submit. He would die.

The seeming irony of our faith is that the kiss of death on our part, the hypocrisy of its false love is turned around by real love, a love which gives life and not death. Maybe like the sinner woman who dared to enter into the Pharisee's home to wash Christ's feet with her tears and later to dry them with her hair, we too need to see that the strangeness of God's ways are not always ours. He comes not for the righteous but for the sinner; not for the rich but for the poor; not for the satisfied but for those still hungry. He comes not waving a sword but pierced by one.

Title: Elevation of Mary

Date: October 10, 1987 - Saturday of the Twenty-Seventh Week (I)

Readings: Joel 4,12-21 / Psalm 97,1-2.5-6.11-12 / Luke 11,27-28

The Gospel today has had a long and sometimes mangled tradition among those who call themselves Christians. I recall reading some years ago a believer of another Christian community using this very passage to deride Mary, the Mother of God. He criticized stringently the Catholic stress upon her cooperative role with Christ in our redemption. We, he implored, because of our faith in Christ, are much more superior to her, he would add. Of course, if the text were taken simply in how it first impresses us, his argument might have had a leg to stand upon. However, we who are called to see things with two-thousand year old eyes, view the text for what it truly is -- an elevation of Mary's dignity and a reaffirmation of Christ's call for us to be like her.

Although we could never fathom the wonder of this woman who was privileged to carry our Savior in her womb and who would indeed nurse him from her breasts; Mary first became his mother, not physically but spiritually. Christ says, "Blest are they who hear the word of God and keep it." From the very beginning, that is what Mary did. The angel came to her and announced to her God's favor. She responded with her whole being as the handmaid of the Lord. She responded to God by allowing the Word to be conceived in her very person. And she kept it. The significance of this phrase cannot be underestimated during this age when so many mothers choose not to keep the little ones alive inside of them. Mary's yes extended throughout her whole life, making her Christ's first disciple. When so many had fled into hiding, where was she? --Where she always was, beside her Son, even as he hung upon a Cross.

Now, we are called to follow in the footsteps of this first disciple. The word of God needs to take root in our hearts and we need to keep it. Like her, if we nurture this special presence given us, we can give birth to Christ in our world today. And God knows, we do so need him beside us today.

Title: Fulfillment of the Law

Date: February 15, 1987 - Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Sirach 15:15-20 / Psalm 119:1-2,4-5,17-18,33-34 / 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 / Matthew 5/17-37

Today I would like to begin by telling you a story-- a story about two little boys. They were like most young children. They loved playing ball. They liked cartoons, especially those filled with lots of super-heroes and villains. Ice-cream was their favorite food, for both main course and dessert. They both had that most peculiar attraction all boys seem to have towards mud and dirt. And, both wanted a dog. The first boy, Arnold, came from an house which the second boy, Ruppert, could only experience in his wildest dreams. Arnold was given everything. And, he got away with all kinds of poor behavior. His room looked like a bomb hit it. He ate only what he wanted and when he wanted. He had toys piled up in the garage and outside-- toys with which he easily tired. He wanted a dog and his parents bought him several pure breeds, but he mistreated one of them and it had to be put to sleep. He would stay out late, hit all the parties, and even got messed up with a pretty tough crowd. His parents thought, well he's just a boy having fun. To say he was spoiled would have been an understatement. He was a brat. He would cry and yell if he did not get what he wanted, and he would get it. It is a little sad really. When he grew up into a man, things did not get much better. He stayed a child. Unfortunately, his parents could not live forever, and when they died, he found himself alone, unable to cope or to be happy in the world. He could not satisfy his desires, and they were unbridled-- lawless. He was unhappy.

The second boy, Ruppert, wanted a lot of things too, but from day one his parents set down the law. If he spoke out of turn or showed any kind of disobedience or disrespect, he was punished, maybe even spanked. His mother was a stickler on cleanliness and so he had to always make his bed and keep his room clean. He had a curfew time and could only play or watch TV after his homework. He did not have everything he wanted, and his father made sure he knew that some of the things he wanted, he would have to earn. Not being merely preoccupied by things, he had time to read and create worlds inside of himself. He even liked to pray, although sometimes his prayers were more in line with petition than anything else, especially in reference to a dog. Goodness! How much he wanted one! But his mother was allergic, so he never did, that is until he was a man. He resented some of the things his parents had made him do, but he was not quite so empty as Arnold. Indeed, some of the rules he experienced as a child help make him into a more responsible adult. He would delay gratification, seek the truth of things, and organize his life. When his parents were dying, he helped them cope, you see he did not have to lean on them any longer, he could stand on his own two feet and even help others to do the same. I won't say his parents were perfect, sometimes they might have been too harsh.

The story of these two boys represents two extremes-- one of law and one of lawlessness. Now, it is sometimes difficult to keep these poles in tension, however, we need to try. We need both freedom and law. Indeed, law itself can promote freedom. It prevents one from abusing the rights of another, reminding us of our responsibilities to one another and God.

Ruppert, like Israel of old was given a code of conduct, the law. This made him responsible. However, the law sometimes seemed too harsh. This also happened in the life of Israel, the little laws attached to the commandments multiplied so incredibly that only a Pharisee it seemed could keep the whole of it. People felt condemned before they even tried to be faithful. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to destroy it. He came to rid from his people the oppressive weight which had grown up around the law of God. The parents of Ruppert might have done well to hear this too. Ruppert knew that his parents set down rules because they loved him-- that is what made it possible for him to follow them. But, sometimes there might have been too many expectations. We all have to be careful that the rules we expect ourselves and others to live by are neither too cumbersome nor to weak. Israel would not have held together as a nation had it not been for the law. And neither do a lot of families today without rules and reasonable expectations. Even the Church, in the laws it sets to govern its members must always be just and fair. The same for governments.

Our first reading says, "If you choose you can keep the commandments; it is loyalty to do his will." God does not ask of us the impossible. Sin is not inevitable in our lives, filled with the Spirit which makes us New Christs, we can indeed follow the Father in his will for us. He will give us the strength to follow his commands. It may be that we will not be perfectly open at first, and thus will stumble from time to time, but we need not fear if we love Jesus-- in Christ is our victory.

In our Gospel, Jesus tears away the outer trappings of the law of God to reach its heart. He recalls the commandments and extends them. Thou shall not kill. But anyone angry with his brother or sister may be judged as a murderer. Thou shall worship the Lord thy God. But anyone who is unreconciled to another is told to stay away from the altar. Why? Because such a person is unreconciled with God, too. Thou shall not commit adultery. But, as if this might not be hard enough for some, he reminds us of adultery in the heart, hidden to all but ourselves and God. Matthew attaches an assortment of other sayings. None of them are easy. He prohibits divorce and remarriage. He reminds them to be a people of truth in keeping their oaths and not a people of lies. He tells them to be clear and decisive in their discipleship.

All these things were not hammered down upon us because God likes to see us suffer. It is just that there is no other way. The commands of God, both in revelation and in our nature, are to wean us away from weakness, sin, selfishness, and the evil one. God, like a good parent, offers us guidance as to how we can be truly happy and fulfilled. That does not mean that it will always be easy. It won't always be hard either. And for some, let us face it, it will be more difficult than for others. We have to believe in God's wisdom and that of his Church even when we in ourselves are struggling or uncertain.

Jesus came not so much to destroy the law as to fulfill it. When St. Paul speaks of the eradication of the law, he speaks as one already conscious of being redeemed by Christ-- of being a recipient of the law fulfilled. As for St. John, the experience of love is the sole motivation for fulfilling any law or commandment-- divine or ecclesial. We know the divine laws, hopefully, we also know the precepts of the Church-- such things as Sunday attendance at Mass, marriage inside the Church, going to confession, supporting the Church, etc. But the motivation for all these things should not be so much the law, which is given out of love to guide us, but on account of our own love for God and one another.

That kind of belief and trust in God today is being challenged from many quarters. And I am not so sure that is an entirely bad thing. If we can be faithful servants even while in the midst of the storm, how easy we should find it when the weather calms?

I have done a fair amount of talking this morning. Before I close I would like to return to those two boys, Arnold and Ruppert. Who are we most like, Arnold who needed more discipline in his life, or Ruppert, who maybe, even though he was happy, needed a little more freedom? I think Christ offers the way here. But, to do so we need to see law in a positive light, as a sign of love, as a means to true freedom. If Christ could be obedient to the Father, even unto embracing the Cross-- how could obedience fail to be anything but a blessing and joy for us.

Like the Psalmist, we can also share in his cry of joy: "Happy are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Happy are they who observe his decrees, who seek him with all their heart."

Title: Hold Fast to God

Date: February 18, 1988 - Thursday After Ash Wednesday

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20 / Psalm 1:1-2,3,4,6 / Luke 9:22-25

"Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him." These words when offered to the People of God by Moses were an encouragement to follow the commandments, and thus to seek God's blessing and not his curse. So often this translated into the naive understanding that if one were good, only good things would enter one's life. However, in the book of Job and then in the life of Jesus himself, we become well aware that sometimes suffering and even death can inflict the very best of people. The Christian appreciation of this text is very deep. Like a child trusting utterly in his or her parent, we are to rely upon and to be faithful to God -- no matter what. Jesus lived out this passage, because as ironic as it might seem, by allowing himself to be betrayed, mocked, tortured, and murdered -- he was choosing life for us. Now, in response to his sacrifice, we too have to open ourselves to a share in this life -- a life which will ultimately be beyond the reach of pain and death. Notice what the Scripture said, we are to love God, heed his voice, and cling fast to him. We are to hold on so tight that no storm of sin and weakness can drive us away from him. This will require that our love for him always be fused with obedience, just as Christ was obedient unto the cross. The secret is not to give up on God even when the times become difficult. What is more, we need desperately to find the peace and joy which comes with perfect discipleship in this life, despite the cost, loving God entirely for his own sake.

In our tradition we often recall the Cyrenian who reluctantly was forced to help Jesus carry his cross up to Calvary. Do we hesitate? Do we despair and give up? Do we run away from our responsibilities? Jesus did not. May we be so full of the love of God, and therefore in the denial of our very selves, that we may pick up our crosses willingly in traveling in the footsteps of Christ.

Title: Mary Without Sin

Date: December 8, 1988 - Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Readings: Genesis 3:9-15, 20 / Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4 / Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12 / Luke 1:26-38

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a teaching of the Church which has had a long and sometimes controversial history. There are even some contemporary critics of this dogma of faith who would argue that it overly separates Mary from the rest of us. Certainly, it is true that being sinners is a reality ever present in our lives. We seem to find it so difficult to be good. It is ironic that a few of the feminist theologians who criticize this teaching on one hand would then try on the other to argue that Mary has been used as a device of oppression on the part of a male dominated hierarchy. It seems to me that quite the opposite may be true. The witness of Mary as the queen of the saints would emphasize that the greatest person to ever walk the earth next to the Lord, is this woman Mary. Our first reading recalls the first Eve who with her husband turns away from God in disobedience. Our second reading reminds us that if Eve is the mother of all the living, Mary in her faithfulness is the mother of all who are reborn in her Son. She stands as a model of holiness for men and women alike. Her preservation from sin does not create an impassible chasm between her and us. Sin by definition adds nothing to us or to her. If anything, it is a lack of something which should be there -- the grace and presence of Christ. Just as she carried the Lord, now we must avoid sin so as to be filled with his presence and life. Sin is that which divides and alienates. To wish this upon Mary would mean wanting separation from her and the Lord.

Like us, she is totally a creature. The saving grace which washes over us in baptism reaches from the Cross backward to the moment Mary is conceived in the womb. The Messiah whom himself is sinless would enter our world through the sinless portal of Mary. Our feast today also celebrates the beauty and holiness of marital love. Although Mary would conceive Christ through the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit; today's theme elevates the significance of marital and sexual love as offered between Joachim and Ann. Couples raising families in this age would do well to recall that their children in baptism become as Mary, and if they struggle to remain holy, may even become saints. As Mary is, we may become. That is the most powerful message we commemorate today.

Title: Facing Our Mortality & Immortality

Date: April 1, 1988 - Good Friday

Readings: Isaiah 52:13-53:12 / Psalm 31:2,6,12-13,15-16,17,25 / Hebrews 4:14-16;5:7-9 / John 18:1-19:42

An outsider to our faith, might look upon our ritual this evening with awe towards its complexity and yet confusion as to its meaning. This is because we celebrate a theme tonight which much of our culture seeks to ignore or postpone. We commemorate death. Assuredly, it may not be death as many people understand it, but nevertheless it remains something mysterious and even feared. Our society, with its newfound confidence in science, ironically hides the tragic death of the unborn behind the guise of linguistics while many in the medical field go to elaborate techniques to keep certain other people alive, no matter what the cost. One of the tasks of the Christian is to visit the sick; and yet, how often have we hesitated from that duty? And we know why -- because to meet an elderly or handicapped or sick person is to face the specter of our own mortality, death. We dye our hair, or wear something over our heads that lost recently at horse races; we cake our faces in makeup to cover the blemishes and wrinkles of age; we diet to wear clothes that we could not fit into as teenagers; we take an assortment of drugs to maintain our vitality; we do all this and more to escape the prospect of age and the ghost of death which lingers in the periphery of our lives.

Even tonight, many of us may view the death we recall as simply a commemoration of an historical event. But, it is much more than that. Just yesterday, on Holy Thursday, the Lord washed the feet of his disciples as a sign to them that we are called to humble service. Tonight also, he calls us to imitate him. From our Christian initiation onward, we are baptized into the saving death of Christ. It would set the whole pattern of our lives in which we would experience many dyings and risings. It may sound fatalistic, but it is still true that we are on a pilgrimage from the womb to the tomb. To live means we must suffer. To live we must die. The uniquely Christian message is that although we may not escape death, Christ will give us a share in his story of the empty tomb.

To some extent, all the sacraments are a living out of what we celebrate in this season leading to Easter. The Mass is a special case in point whereby the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is not only commemorated but is recalled by a living memory. Christ died once and for all for us, but in the Eucharist, that death breaks through the bonds of time and we are there. Celebrated in an unbloody fashion, what was missing on Calvary is now provided, ourselves and our faithfulness. If it was by our sins that Christ was crucified; then now in the various Masses of the year we are able to get to the other side of that Cross, to offer ourselves with Christ, as an acceptable offering to the Father. Tonight too we offer ourselves in our prayers to God, asking him to hear us and to transform us to the likeness of his Son.

As Christians we view death as the consequence of our primordial disobedience, sin. In the ministry of Jesus this perspective is retained. When he healed the sick, he often added an admonition, to sin no more. He also showed that he was the master of both life and death. When the little girl Tabitha and his friend Lazarus had died, he restored them to health. However, he did not use this very same power to avoid his mission in the world. Why? Certainly, he had not sinned. He did not deserve to die, especially not a criminal's death. Why then did he accept his Cross?

There is a movie which came out about a year or so ago entitled, Saving Grace; in it the Pope while gardening gets locked out of the Vatican and begins to roam the street with the ordinary people. He eventually ends up in a small town where apathy has crushed the people's spirits. They live off charity and refuse to try to improve their lot. Not surprising, the village church is in ruins, after all, what need had a dead people of a church. The Pope, who looks like any other poor man, becomes determined to help stir these people back to life. He starts work upon a primitive irrigation system with the help of children. The adults think he is mad. Lazy thugs in charge of the town try to prevent his work from coming to completion. Just when the project is about finished, the gang leader of the town throws a stick of dynamite destroying part of the works. The townspeople look on. Among the debris is a child, a small boy. All seems lost. All seems for nothing. A boy dies, and what does the successor of Peter have to show for it? And yet, the women and later the men of the village start coming to the wreckage and begin to build. What a price this boy paid. He must not die in vain. How evil an act it was, a deed their sluggishness and despair of life had allowed. They rebuild. Water comes pouring into the town. These simply people begin to rejoice and some even dance in the water. They were dead, and are now alive again. I tell you this story because it speaks to us in a small way about the Cross of Christ. Sometimes to redeem a people, takes a life.

We don't have to dig any deeper than that for the reason why Christ allowed himself to be betrayed, tortured, and murdered. He did it for us. The words from Caiaphas in John's Gospel took on a meaning even deeper than he would have ascribed, that there was an "advantage of having one man die for the people." Jesus was betrayed by his very own friends, the ones who should have protected and loved him. His own people disowned him. Peter denied him. Judas turned him in with, of all things, a kiss! Imagine someone whom you love more than life, betraying your love and doing so with a sign of false affection. I know for some of you this would not be hard to envision. Think about the deep agony it causes. It is at the core of what the Cross is about. I cannot tell you how many men and women have come to this rectory door, crying uncontrollably, because a spouse or a loved one abandoned them. It is the Passion of Christ all over again, a story of a love rejected. And yet, if this were all that the Cross was about, we would be the most pitiful of people. The story of Good Friday is also about a love fulfilled and accepted -- a love so great that Jesus was willing to stretch out his hands and feet upon the Cross to show us just how much. Taken in connection with what we shall celebrate tomorrow evening, it is the message that love is ultimately stronger than pain, betrayal, or death.

Despite how we try, I doubt if any of us can completely cast the thought of death out of our minds. We here in the Archdiocese have been reminded once more of it by the recent passing of Bishop Lyons. And, I am sure that among many of you, this year has held the pain of loved ones lost. I don't have to remind you of the agony and regrets this arouses. We can take comfort in the Christian message that death is not the end but is rather a new beginning. It is a doorway from this life to another. Because that door closes so quickly, we might easily despair as to what is on the other side. However, we do not need to fear. God has promised his own that we would never be abandoned. Just as he vindicated his Son after the world's intolerance had done all it could to him, so shall we be rescued. Jesus himself said that he has prepared a place for us and that in his house there are many rooms. Let us remember this night that we are mortal, that we are not totally in control of our lives, that we do suffer, that we are sinful, and that death is apart of who and what we are. But, let us also recall that we are so much more and that there is a part of us that death shall never reach. Where we are weak, God is strong. Where we are sinful, God can forgive. Where God forgives, there is redemption. Where there is redemption, there is eternal life.

Title: The Witness of Ashes

Date: February 17 1988 - Ash Wednesday

Readings: Joel 2:12-18 / Psalm 51:3-4,5-6,12-13,14,17 / 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 / Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

I will keep my words this morning brief since I know that many of you are on tight schedules and that it will take additional time to distribute ashes. However, it would be remiss of me if I failed altogether to offer you a few words about today and the season of Lent. We so often think of this as a time of giving up things; it is much more than that. Indeed, it is a special period in which we wean a few things out of our life so that we might have more space to reflect upon God and what he has done for us. The ashes stand forth as a symbol of our mortality and of the vain pursuits for earthly treasure. We are called to turn away from sin and to receive the Good News that the Jesus who is Lord has come to rescue us from our folly. Our recognition of our indebtedness to God and our utter dependence upon him is a key theme to the Lenten season.

We so often seek recognition and praise, even for the charitable and loving things we do. However, the only eyes that matter are God's. He sees everything. It is a bit ironic that although we might want others to see our generosity, the ashes we wear on our foreheads often embarrass us. I know a number of people who quickly rub them off as they leave. I would urge you to keep those crosses of ash upon your foreheads today; not as something to make us pompous, but rather as a witness to our faith.

Title: Fast & Abstinence

Date: February 19, 1988 - Friday After Ash Wednesday

Readings: Isaiah 58:1-9 / Psalm 51:3-4,5-6,18-19 / Matthew 9:14-15

It might seem from all three of our texts today that God is not all that concerned about fasting as we usually imagine it. However, we probably need to look deeper into our readings. In our Gospel, the disciples of Jesus are challenged for their lack of fasting; in response, the Lord tells their critics that when he, the groom, is taken from their midst, then they will fast. This season of Lent is the occasion when we recall his departure from us, brought about by our betrayal and sins. Easter, is when we replace fasting with feasting, celebrating that the one who was put to death is risen and among us again. We live out this mystery in our liturgical year.

The reading from Isaiah and our psalm give us a deeper appreciation as to what real fasting is all about. Simply dieting is not really meritorious. What God really wants is for us to empty ourselves of selfishness so that he might live more fully in us. When Isaiah calls real fasting the "setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked...and not turning your back on your own," he is not merely talking about an external program in social justice. Rather, he is talking about allowing God to so live in us that doing these things become second nature. The internal condition of having "a heart contrite and humbled" as our psalm offers, makes possible the external actions of piety and charity. Consequently, we freely fast and follow the Church's guidance in abstaining from meat today, so that our prayer and work in God's service might be more intense and complete.

Title: A Church for Sinners

Date: February 20, 1988 - Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Readings: Genesis 9:8-15 / Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9 / 1 Peter 3:18-22

Over a year ago I was offering some counseling to a man who had stopped going to church. He said that he did not have to go to services to pray and that the churches were filled with hypocrites anyway. I admitted that there was some truth to his accusation, but I then asked him to honestly tell me whether or not he was really praying alone either. He paused. Hesitantly, he said no. I then quite pointedly inquired about who he thought should go to church? He wondered what I meant. I responded that Christ came for sinners and that we have since tried to fill our churches with them, this priest included. The poor man began to see his own hypocrisy. The only difference between him and us was that we admitted that we were sinners and therefore sought God's forgiveness. Jesus in our Gospel spoke directly to this when he said, "The healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do. I have not come to invite the self-righteous to a change of heart, but sinners." There is no shame in admitting that we are not perfect, only in trying hide our frailties behind the lies of pride and deceit. I wish I could tell you that this revelation changed the life of this man. But, I have no inkling. He has not come into this worship space in over a year. You see the blinders immediately came back down and he rationalized away everything I said. I pray for him, just as we all should. And yet, there is some sadness in knowing that when our family in faith comes together, he and so many others are not present. No one, no where can ever take their place here and so we are the poorer. We desperately need the witness and solidarity of one another. With this in mind I would sincerely encourage you all to constantly support one another, not with the badgering of a people who think they are better than others but with the example of a faith lived out both here in this church and in the world outside. You see the Pharisees and the scribes to whom Jesus spoke did not realize that they most of all needed Christ's forgiveness and healing. Let it be a lesson of which we shall always be mindful.

Title: Reform & Believe

Date: February 21, 1988 - First Sunday of Lent

Readings: Genesis 9:8-15 / Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9 / 1 Peter 3:18-22 / Mark 1:12-15

"The Reign of God is at hand! Reform your lives and believe in the gospel!" The cry for men and women to reform their lives had long been one echoed in the history of God dealing with his people. With the coming of Christ, we for the first time, can fully respond to this admonition.

In the days of Noah the people were also called to faithfulness and yet they remained in their debauchery. I recall a reproduction of a painting my parents used to have of the deluge. A young beautiful woman with long hair clung to a jagged rock while surrounded by heavy winds and thrashing tides. I recall staring at the picture and feeling deeply sorry for her. She was so beautiful. How could God be so cruel? As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, still sometimes the actions of God in the Old Testament seem like such over-reactions to me. I suppose what we forget is that the more primitive the people, the less sophisticated have to be the ways to keep them in line and to guide them. The story of the flood is not one simply about destruction and disobedience; in Noah and his companions we see an image of God's steadfast fidelity and love for mankind, despite our disobedience. God sets up a covenant with Noah and promises never to flood the world again; he even sets the rainbow in the sky as a sign of his promise. The words of Genesis convey here the deep love of God. Because of our sins, we deserved death. However, not only are a remnant rescued but later God would send us his messiah to save us from our sins and eternal death.

I would probably be negligent if I failed to say a few words about the kind of literature which this text in Genesis represents. It is linked with the story of creation and even though it is the first book of our bibles, actually Genesis was among the last of the Old Testament to be composed. The Jewish people were in Babylonian exile surrounded by a people who followed false Gods. The story of the flood reaffirmed to them how much God loved them, and that no matter how desperate their situation became, God would not abandon them.

The story of creation and the flood also made up a kind of satire against the Babylonian gods. Much of the linguistic allusion is lost in English. The particular story which parallels ours is called the Gilgamish epic. In it, the hero is not Noah but Ut-napishtim. When the gods, notice the horrendous plural, decree the deluge, the pagan god Ea reveals their designs to Ut-napishtim by speaking secretly through a reed wall. You see, Ea did not want to let the other gods, who wanted to get rid of mankind, know. He is urged to build a cubical boat of ten cubits. This is not like the rectangular boat of Genesis, just a box. He is warned to take ample provisions, as well as a sampling of the beasts of the field and the wild creatures. This is like Genesis. However, he is also told to take craftsmen lest their skills be lost. For six days and nights the storm persists. Finally, the ark comes to rest on Mount Nisir. Like Noah, he sends forth a dove, a swallow, and a raven, leaving the boat when the raven fails to come back. Ut-napishtim offers a sacrifice to the gods who cluster around him like flies. Instead of a covenant as we see in our story today, there follows an angry dispute among the gods. Enlil, angry about the remnant which has escaped, inquires as to who leaked the secret of the flood. Ea confesses but questions the prudence of Enlil in sending the storm. Upon the sinner, he says, should be imposed his sin, and on the transgressor, his disobedience. Instead of a universal disaster, Enlil, he complains, should have simply sent a wolf or a lion or a famine or a pestilence which would not have wiped out the entire race. Because Ut-napishtim and his wife escaped destruction, they must now be given immortality and transplanted so that they would not mingle with mortals. This and similar stories question the wisdom and goodness of the providence of the gods. The Jewish people believed in one God who was all knowing and all good. The destruction is then not seen as the act of a whimsical god but rather was something which a disobedient people brought upon themselves. God's response is to save a remnant from further depravity and have them start brand new. You can see from these two stories the resemblance. Father John McKenzie, a Scripture scholar, tells us that "The differences between the Mesopotamian and the biblical stories show how the Hebrews took a piece of ancient tradition and retold it in order to make it a vehicle of their own distinctive religious beliefs, in particular their conception of divine justice and providence." Although this flood may not have actually wiped clean our planet, it could well be that both stories emerge from some common memory of a disastrous flood of prehistoric times -- a recollection which has grown out of all proportions.

Having said this, theologically, the wisdom and faith of righteous man was praised for having followed God who saved man from his folly. Noah listened and obeyed God. This is the key. In our second reading, the deluge is an example of God's patience and is compared to the waters of baptism. Water for us thus becomes a symbol of both life and death. In the history of salvation, it meant death to the peoples around Noah -- it meant death to the Egyptians who chased the Jews across the Red Sea -- and it even meant death for Jesus who once baptized by John would engage in a ministry which would demand the highest cost. It also meant life -- it meant life and a second chance for Noah -- it meant life and freedom for those fleeing Egyptian slavery -- it meant life in the natural processes of the world where plants and animals perish without water. In baptism, by submerging and dying with Christ in those waters of baptism, we are promised to rise with him. Like a seed which has flowered, we are born again and made brand new. Our sins are forgiven and we are made members of a new People of God.

Recall your baptismal promises often and allow Christ to live in you. Have Noah's kind of faith. He trusted God even in the absurd task of building an ark. Living out our Christianity will sometimes seem absurd to others, but do not allow the storm of sin and death to drown you. Christ has given us a fine ship called the Church and if we remain faithful, it will take this Pilgrim People to the Promised Shore.

Title: Peter & the Papacy

Date: February 22, 1988 - Chair of Peter, Apostle

Readings: 1 Peter 5:1-4 / Psalm 23:1-3,3-4,5,6 / Matthew 16:13-19

Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. It is an occasion of great joy for us in the Western Church. Twenty centuries have passed and still this central chair of our Church stands firm. However, the sadness of this day is that Peter who should be for all Christians a focus of unity has instead become an issue of controversy and division. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters while willing to recognize him with their bishops as the first among equals, cannot yet work out among our churchmen a mutually acceptable view of his primal authority. The Lutherans are willing to admit some sort of role for him as the ecumenical seat of the Church but not as one who could officially and infallibly teach. The Anglicans find difficulty in regards to the tension between the papacy and the role of their conferences and nationalist leadership. And some of our Baptist friends, like Mr. Falwell would not accept him as a full associate unless he dressed in business suits, got rid of the rituals and costumes, and slid down slides for money at amusement parks. {Pastor Fallwell did the latter recently.} I mention all this lest we forget how others sometimes see us and the one whom we discern as Christ's Vicar on earth.

As a fan of history I cannot help but remark about that title "vicar". At first, those who were the bishops of Rome were actually called the Vicars of Peter and only later was this term redefined as the Vicar of Christ. After all, he is the one who is visible on earth replacing or better, representing Christ to the Church in the See or Chair of Peter. Of course, Peter had not always been in Rome. Even though he founded his see there, it was the place of his death. Earlier he founded the See of Antioch which was then the capital of the East. Saint Gregory the Great claimed that Peter was Bishop of Antioch for seven years. It is because of this that this feast today was formerly commemorated on January 18 in honor of the Roman Pontificate and on February 22 in honor of his governance in Antioch.

Peter in our first reading admonishes his friends to be examples to the flock in their generosity and humility. It is no wonder that the successors of Peter, despite all their worldly titles should still cling to the most humble title imaginable in being called "the Servant of the Servants of God". Peter learned well his lesson when he at first had refused to allow the Master to wash his feet. The Lord told him that unless he allowed it, he could have no part of him. After the Paschal Mystery, it is Peter who would emerge as the one to most humble himself and to shepherd the People of God. Unlike Judas who betrayed the Lord and despaired; Peter recovered from his denial of Christ, and became the visible and humble bedrock of Christ's Church. His are they keys of Christ which invite even the most grievous sinner to seek and receive forgiveness. This same Peter would follow Christ all the way to his own crucifixion on an inverted cross. Peter died, but his chair did not. Our Holy Father today wields the same keys to the kingdom which were used by Peter, keys which seek to open our hearts to God's truth and mercy. The Church shows us the light of Christ in a world still stumbling in darkness. The Church is the compassion of God in a cold world. May we always see in the Chair of Peter the source of our historical and spiritual unity to the living legacy of Christ.

Title: Polycarp, Handing on the Torch of Faith

Date: February 23, 1988 - Polycarp, Bishop & Martyr

Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11 / Psalm 34:4-5,6-7,16-17,18-19 / Matthew 6:7-15

Our psalm offers words which might have proven a comfort to Saint Polycarp as he faced martyrdom for his steadfast faith. "I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears." However, even though he, like us, might be rescued from distress, this does not necessarily mean that we will not have to undergo hardship. Eusebius tells us that Polycarp embraced Christianity as a young man in about the year 80. Indeed, he was made a bishop of a see called Smyrna by none other than St. John the Evangelist himself. Polycarp represents the handing on of the torch of faith from the first Christian generation to the next. In about the year 158 he journeyed to Rome to consult with the Pope regarding the appropriate date for Easter. It was agreed that the East and West would follow their own traditions regarding the dating. In the fourth general persecution of the Church by the empire, he was apprehended and brought before the proconsul. Because he refused to deny Christ, he was condemned to be burned. However, witnesses claimed that the flames avoided him in forming an arch over his head. Undaunted, he was pierced by a sword and he hemorrhaged so badly that it put out the fire. Although his death is recorded as in 166 AD, his bones were collected and remain til this very day in the church of San Ambrogio in Messina, Rome. His faith upheld him so that he might face death well. We should pray to be just as faithful in our many sufferings and in facing the specter of death. In his witness, he also handed on the faith which comes all the way through history to us today. We stand upon the testimony of the generations as well as upon the current experience of Christ's Spirit present in our midst. Now we too are called to nurture the faith and to hand it on uncorrupted to the generations which follow us.

Title: A Greater Than Jonah Here

Date: February 24, 1988 - Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Readings: Jonah 3:1-10 / Psalm 51:3-4,12-13,18-19 / Luke 11:29-32

In our first reading, the prophet Jonah came to Nineveh with the warning that lest they turned away from their sinful ways, the city would be destroyed. So struck with fear were they at the impending doom in forty days that the king declared that man and beast alike would be covered in sack cloth and ashes. Perhaps, just perhaps, God would relent and forgive them? Sure enough God did preserve them from destruction. Our Gospel revealed a far more serious kind of impending doom. In the latter, mere physical life and property was threatened; now spiritual life was at risk and the loss of the greatest treasure possible, Christ himself. The people around Jesus sought a sign, being blind to the significance of this new prophet who healed the sick and who forgave sins. Jesus said quite explicitly, "For at the preaching of Jonah they reformed, but you have a greater than Jonah here."

What does this incident say to us? It reminds us that Jesus makes all the difference, even for those who do not clearly know him for who he really is -- God come among us as one of us. Not deserving such an honor, our only response is one of humility, repentance, and praise. Because he makes a difference, this reality must be reflected in our lives. Because he makes all the difference, we cannot hesitate to proclaim the Good News to non-Christians and to those who have lost track of Christ somewhere upon their paths in life. We must not be ashamed of him or try to explain away his significance. Because of him, nothing shall ever be the same again. If we have a greater than Jonah here, then why do we sometimes hide him? Why are we not quicker and more resolved in turning around our lives so that Christ may live more fully in us?

Title: Realizing the Love of God

Date: February 25, 1988 - Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Readings: Esther 12:14-16,23-25 / Psalm 138:1-2,2-3,7-8 / Matthew 7:7-12

Our Gospel offers us a line which should never fail to touch us with the absurdity of being harsh to those whom we love. "Would one of you hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf, or a poisonous snake when he asks for a fish?" Jesus goes on to tell us that if even we who are a sinful people know how to give that which is good to our children, just imagine what our Heavenly Father has in store for us.

I wonder though whether or not Jesus would use this analogy today? It seems that the depravity among men and women has reached such a monstrous point that even the children are no longer safe. Abortion in our society is well into its second decade, so commonplace that most of us hardly give it a thought. The papers and television are filled with the news of children being abused both by their parents and by those in whose care they are placed. Recently there was a story about a woman who hired a hit man to kill her husband. We are not talking about minor squabbles in families. All these concerns involve murder and abuse. This does not make matters easy for us who try their best in living out Christianity. Yesterday our Gospel had Jesus teaching his friends how to call God, our Father, in the Lord's prayer. How do we teach children in this city about a loving Father with situations so bad, with divorce plaguing half of all marriages, or where the mother gives her favors to a different man on any given night? It is not easy.

I would encourage you all, as parents and grandparents, as uncles and aunts, as brothers and sisters, and as friends in Christ, to give the kind of witness which will make the Father's love believable. Allow that love to shine out and to touch others through you. Do this especially for the children. God knows it is a tough enough world. We can help make it easier for them. They are the future of our nation and faith. We have to invest in them. Jesus understood this well when he said, "Treat others the way you would have them treat you: this sums up the law and the prophets."

Title: Reconciliation with God & Man

Date: February 26, 1988 - Friday of the First Week of Lent

Readings: Ezekiel 18:21-28 / Psalm 130:1-2,3-4,4-6,7-8 / Matthew 5:20-26

A central theme of our readings today is reconciliation with our neighbor and with God. In our Gospel, Christ exhorts us to nurture a holiness which goes beyond external appearances and which emanates essentially from within. Our hearts need to be forgiving and willing to accept forgiveness. Our minds need to elevate good thoughts about our brothers and sisters, and not to be centered upon how we might get even with those who hurt us. This is what Christ would do for us who murdered him by our sins. Instead of utterly destroying us with thunderbolt and fire, he offers us a share in his victory over death. He died, loving and forgiving his murderers. When we come together to celebrate this great gift offered by Christ, the Lord desires us to respond in kind. He says, "If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." With the bread and wine which comes up here to this altar, we have to offer ourselves for transformation, so that Christ may live more fully in us. This is the essential meaning behind the sign of peace. This becomes even more essential when we recognize that Christ identifies himself with the persons in our lives whom we least love. This is the kind of love which grants blessings upon another and not curses, even when we find it difficult to like someone. It is this kind of love which is quick to forgive and which makes one willing to admit his or her sinfulness, and need for forgiveness. The first reading challenges us to forgive as God forgives. Ezekiel said, "None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced." When God forgives, he forgets. We are made as white as snow. For this reason, let us forgive as God forgives, without resentment and backstabbing. Let us forgive ourselves, recognizing that we have no right to hold bound what Christ in the Church has loosed.

Title: Mass at Theological College

Date: March 14, 1988 - Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Readings: Isaiah 65:17-21 / Psalm 30:2,4,5-6,11-13 / John 4:43-54

I recall when I was a seminarian here how funny I used to think it was when men would come back after only a year or two as priests and speak as if they knew all the ropes. Well, I tell you, I do not know them, indeed, sometimes I get tangled up inside of them. I must be honest with you, being a priest has been harder than I thought it would be. Nothing, I mean that, nothing comes easy. If you think things are hard now, just wait. I tell you this not to discourage you but to warn you to be prepared. Right now many of you might view homilies and the celebration of the Mass as the most stressful; but I have not found that to ultimately the case. It is everything else.

It is only when you deal with your people that the real struggles begin. You find yourself trying to discern how close to get to people, when to love and when not to love too much, when to challenge and when to wait for the storm to pass. You don't always set up the right boundaries and you make mistakes. You find that it is 10:30 at night and you are still doing parish work. You begin to let things eat away at your day off. When you do take time out for yourself, you feel guilty.

Some of the things I thought might be a lot of fun are often a great deal of work. Take marriage preparation for instance. I used to think only a few might be living a life that the Church would not be happy about. I exaggerate only a little bit when I tell you that they are all living together. And what's worse, once you get them married, they don't want to live together anymore. I also do baptismal preparation, I have never even seen these people before. Many of them have not been in a church since their marriage, and that is if they were married in the Church. You cannot presume anything. Many people quite literally see the sacrament as a form of magic. And even though I am very conservative, as half of you probably well recall, I still very much believe that these parents must have the faith alive in their hearts if the grace of baptism is to ever have a chance of growing in their children. I often admonish them that there are a lot of strange cults and philosophies out there after their children. There is no guarantee that even if we do all the right things for the children that they will not stray away for awhile. However, if we give them a firm foundation now then they will have a home to which to come back after facing the storm of life. But, as I said before, you have to start at the beginning, even for adults. People are so ill prepared these days that even in Confession you can't often give a few simple prayers to say because they do not know them. The Hail Mary and The Act of Contrition which are rudimentary prayers for us might be unknown to them. And then, you have to help them to learn to pray and talk to God in their hearts. People don't even understand the formal prayers of the Church which we use at worship. Take the term Paschal Mystery. Death and Cross they understand. Paschal Mystery, what is that? Although I know that we were all taught that there is a difference between a homily which is a proclamation and catechetical teaching, more and more I am having to offer instruction in my homilies as well. People just do not understand what is being said otherwise.

There is so much to do. Alone you and I are unable to do it. The job ahead of us is so immense that we are going to need all the help we can get. We need it from other priests, deacons, religious, and the lay people -- especially the lay people.

There may not be much knowledge of the teachings of the Church; however, I do not want to give the impression that there is a shortage of faith. It is there. But, it is starving to be nurtured and informed. In our Gospel today a royal official, who probably knew very little about this Jesus, besides his being a loving and caring man, goes to him and asks for him to heal his son. Jesus does something which he also does elsewhere in the Scriptures, he heals from afar. Remember the case of the soldier, in that story too, there was faith that Jesus could bring healing. After the miracle, we are told that the entire household became believers. That is how things are today. There is faith out there, but these people need desperately to see God's love, care, and healing in us. One of the greatest burdens I have felt is from the responsibility of just being as a priest, a special living symbol of Christ in the community. Because of this, we cannot be so judgmental of people that we slam our fists on the pulpits and condemn people who are in the plight of serious weakness and/or sin. Even in seminary I came to the understanding that things would not always be black and white. The trouble is that they are not necessarily grey either. The people we serve represent a whole mosaic of patterns which are largely undecipherable. In my parish we have a homosexual couple for instance. In they eyes of God and the Church, I really believe that their relationship is wrong. But, here is the irony. They come to the church every day. They pray. They believe. What do you say to them? What do you say and do in all the cases I mentioned this evening? Sometimes you will be unsure. However, I would urge you to be like the figure in our Gospel today who "put his trust in the word Jesus spoke to him." First and foremost, the Word has to live in us. We cannot allow ourselves to get into the way of the ministry which Christ wants to perform in us. Sometimes it will be easy; often it will be difficult. But never should our eyes turn away from Christ or his Church.

I crammed so much of my work here in seminary that there is little I remember. Nevertheless, one thing which I do recall is from Rahner. He said that before we do anything else we need to be humble. We are nothing without God. And yet, in God, nothing is impossible.

Title: Living Water

Date: March 15, 1988 - Tuesday of the Fourth Week of the Year

Readings: Ezekiel 47:1-9,12 / Psalm 46:2-3,5-6,8-9 / John 5:1-3,5-16

Living just down the street from an American version of Bethesda, we have a constant reminder of this story in the Gospel. The Jewish people had the custom of lowering sick people into this particular pool; tradition had it that the stirring of the waters might bring a healing. This sort of belief is not alien to us. After all, many people today make pilgrimages to places like Lourdes where their hopes for healing are directed. In both cases, the custom was not merely a reflection of crude magic but of a belief in God's power to heal.

Christ reveals in this Gospel today that he is the living water which brings healing. No one was generous enough to lower this lonely man into the pool which he thought might cure him; little did he know that a short command from this stranger Jesus would have him walking.

Interestingly enough, the same lack of self-giving which prevented others from helping this man is later directed against Jesus who heals him. Jesus is criticized for violating the Sabbath. Eventually the man who was healed discovers who Jesus is and is asked to repent from his sins. One has to wonder, even though he knows the name of Jesus, do those to whom he speak really appreciate who this Jesus is? The answer seems no. Instead of thanking God for this healing or recognizing the divine presence in Christ, they begin to plot against him. As mystery writers might say, "the plot thickens." May we always recognize Christ's healing and forgiveness in our midst. May we also be generous enough to help others receive God's blessing and healing in the waters of baptism and in the other sacraments.

Title: The Fidelity of Christ

Date: March 16, 1988 - Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Readings: Isaiah 49:8-15 / Psalm 145:8-9,13-14,17-18 / John 5:17-30

Our long Gospel today calls to mind the extraordinary unity of Christ with the Father. Various members of the Jewish community plotted to kill him, not simply because they viewed him as violating the Sabbath by healing the sick; but most importantly, because they saw him speaking about God as his Father. For him to make himself an equal to God would seem to violate their stark monotheism, that there is but one God. Jesus attempts in his answer to resolve this very real question. He begins by explaining that there is no competition or inner rivalry in God. The Son follows the will of the Father and none other. He explains that the Father loves the Son, and indeed, the Church would identify this love as also being God, the Holy Spirit. The Son is God's self-expression in the world. He comes so that we may more fully know God and possess eternal life. The damage due to our sins had seemed irreparable. Man owed a dept which left to his own resources he could never repay. Only God could eradicate the indignity to Himself which we showed him by our sins. By becoming a human being, the price we owed was repaid by the only one who could possibly pay it, God. We see in all these words, not only an explanation of who God is but also of his plan to save us. Totally submissive to the Father's will, he shows us the way of obedience and life. Like Lazarus before us all those who recognize his voice will one day emerge from the tombs to live. Those who have rejected his word will fall back into the grave, into that prison which we call hell. Let it be our prayer, that we will all recognize that Christ is indeed the Lord of our lives, the one in whom we have placed our trust, the Son of God, who now calls us to follow in his footsteps as God's adopted children.

Title: St. Patrick

Date: Thursday, March 17, 1988 - St. Patrick, Bishop, Apostle to Ireland

Readings: Exodus 32:7-14 / Psalm 106:19-20,21-22,23 / John 5:31-47

In our Gospel, Jesus makes reference to John the Baptizer who witnessed on his behalf. All of us who are given the vocation as Christian are to do likewise. Today, we celebrate a feast in honor of a man who did much to bring Christ to others, Saint Patrick.

Born about the year 389 to a British deacon, Calpurnius and his wife Conchessa, he was taken prisoner when about sixteen and kidnaped to Ireland as a herdsman. He survived the rugged life and held onto his faith. Six years later he escaped. However, he would have a dream urging him to go back and Christianize Ireland away from the Druids. Ordained in 417, he was sent upon a mission in 431 to assist Bishop Paladius in Ireland. He succeeded as bishop in 432 and widely traveled the land there spreading the faith. In 442, Pope Leo the Great commissioned him to organize the Church of Ireland and he established various sees. He spread faith and learning where ever he went. Although many of the monastic communities and the physical structures and lands of the Church would one day be pillaged and confiscated by the advocates of the British Protestant reformers, his living legacy of faith given to the Irish would remain strong. Indeed, despite the Reformation, the faith in England, France, and Switzerland would always be indebted to his early work in Ireland. For us all, the monastic rule in Ireland would do much to revitalize the faith in the entirety of Europe, and its view of Confession would rescue the Church in its dilemma over repentant sinners and the danger of scandal.

May we, like Saint Patrick, be a people of such deep-seated faith that it will always manifest itself in sincere gratitude, holy prayer, and good works.

Title: Reflecting Upon a Meeting on the Proposed Women's Pastoral

Date: Sunday, October 1, 1988 - Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Readings: Genesis 2:18-24 / Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5,6 / Hebrews 2:9-11 / Mark 10:2-16

This morning I attended a consultation held at Blessed Sacrament Parish for those concerned about the first draft of the bishops' pastoral on women. Four groups corresponding to the four chapters were formed. The first three topics, entitled, "Partners in Personhood," "Partners in Relationships," and "Partners in Society" drew moderate numbers but the fourth topic, "Partners in the Church" was so large it had to be broken in two. This was the part of the document which most made the news, dealing with the question of the ordination of women. Wearing my collar, and fearing that I would be leaped upon as a symbol of patriarchal oppression, I was happily surprised by the generally sober tone the discussion took. I listened more than I spoke; however, a few times I did contribute. It seemed that a majority present favored the ordination of women, even after the Papal clarification against it this week. A representative of the National Organization for the Ordination of Women was particularly concerned about the role of the so-called "institutional" Church. She said that she resented the fact that each time a woman's response was offered in the letter, the bishops would counter by quoting official documents which did not reflect women's sentiments. Earlier, she had interpreted the Pope's recent pronouncement as his attempt to play the Devil's Advocate in forcing more theologically in-depth inquiry into the issue. I don't know, I cannot help but think that the Pope meant exactly what he said and that it reflects not only human rhetoric but in some mysterious fashion, the will of God.

Others, like our Sister Mary Madden went to the discussion which encountered the issues surrounding relationships. These are especially pertinent today, given our readings regarding the unity of man and woman intended from the beginning of creation. The first sentence of our very first reading states: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." Partner -- that is a word which our Holy Father used and which the U.S. bishops used in the title of their letter, "Partners in the Mystery of Redemption." In marriage and out, the sexes complement and aid one another in their pilgrimage back to God.

For those who have encountered problems in their relationships, and who have even endured the death of marriage relationships, the readings today might be particularly painful. They point to a unity that they have failed to achieve; and it is not always the fault of both, either. If one is willing to work with a relationship and the other is not, where can you go? It is for this reason that the Church works so hard with couples prior to marriage to help avoid the tragedy of separation and divorce. The bishop's letter seeks improved avenues of healing and acceptance for those who have gone through these difficulties. We as a community need to refrain from stereotypes and seek to console and work with these fine people. As for those who remarry, unable to receive an annulment of a previous bond, the request that they refrain from the altar of communion is a sign of love and not of disgust or rejection. We all know how hard life can be; it is not our place to condemn another, even if they have sinned grievously in our eyes. The sacrament we share is a sign of a complete and full unity of the Catholic people throughout the world. Marriages outside the Church fracture that unity and the sacrament of unity, the Eucharist, is forfeited; however, what is not lost is our love and concern for them as our brothers and sisters.

For those of you contemplating marriages or who have been particularly blessed in solid and intimate ones, these readings stand for you as an ideal which you need to ever seek to achieve. It can be such a lonely existence. Even the author of Genesis realized that. Philosophers and psychologists alike tell us that human beings are among the loneliest creatures in the world. Maybe that is why so many of us cluster to cities, and yet there in the midst of tight schedules and cold apartments, the loneliness seems intensified. Sometimes, maybe the loneliness and fear causes couples to play at spousal love even before they have a right to it? Slow to condemn, prudent to offer correction, and quick to heal should be the way we deal with those who walk the road of prodigal brothers and sisters.

Marriage was meant to last a lifetime. To minimize this teaching would only cause more harm than good. In this special sacramental covenant we see reflected back just how much Christ, the groom, loves his bride, the Church. He will never abandon us. This is the reality that fidelity would offer us. Christ will never divorce himself from his Church. He will love us over and over again, until we meet him face to face. In this life he does not compete with the love of one spouse to another. In every word and gesture of love, from the prayer on their lips to the glory they give to God in their flesh, they surrender themselves to God. To the extent that they love one another, they love Jesus. This is the core of the partnership they share, they are helpers to one another in becoming saints. Sometimes it will be hard, maybe very hard. But from those who succeed in being faithful to one another, we can take heart and be glad. Like the little children whom Jesus calls to himself, whatever comes, all of us need to trust the Lord who is ever with us and guiding us, yes guiding us, even when the road seems long, and hard, and maybe even lonely. I end on this note because the pain of separation is something most all of us will also have to experience, either in a marriage where one stops giving or when death comes and takes away a beloved. God willing, there will be times on that pilgrimage of ours for great joy. And one day, that unity symbolized in the unity of man and woman will be fully realized, and we will all rejoice in the happy and peaceful presence of God forever.

Addendum to the Last Homily:

Comments on the First Draft of the Women's Pastoral


I think it is unfair of the author(s) of the bishops' pastoral to state in reference to the prudent souls who urged them against writing it, that there is some insinuation that "women were the problem". Most proponents of a toned down letter would probably only note that no matter what the bishops write, it will only be a catalyst for further divisiveness and dissent. From all sides there will come critical rebuffs; after all, to tear down is much easier than to build. The accusation, that "the best we bishops might do,...was to express contrition", although ample advise for us all, might illustrate the current coercive influence of a rebellious strain of proponents who convict the leadership of the Church of sin because it fails to acknowledge their particular revisionist and/or secular agenda.

In addition, if one is absolutely determined to promulgate such a document, there may be great merit to dialoguing with women of various backgrounds and orientations; however, the weight of the opinions shared by women faithful to the Church's teachings should by far outstrip those who by their public positions and lifestyles, do not. This especially includes the lesbians who are mentioned by name in the document's introductory remarks.

The pain that many women confess in reference to such issues as ordination and contraception is unfortunate; however, what might be more sad is the failure of many of these same people to thoroughly research these issues and to assent to the teaching Church. Although a majority are noted as against abortion; the term "majority" implies a minority (which can be quite vocal) who favor it. People who advocate the killing of unborn children should have no voice in the Church which seeks to preserve the sanctity of all life. As in the Church of the first few centuries, we may have to become more particular in who may and who may not be a member of the Church founded by Christ.

Also the following needs qualification: "A significant number are convinced that the ordination of women to ministerial priesthood is the only way to attain full participation in the Church." What do statements like "a majority", "a significant number", "some", and "many" mean? In reference to this issue, and especially in reference to the recent papal letter, do they feel that they can continue to be members of the Catholic Church? How would they feel about joining the Episcopalians who now even have a female (divorced) bishop? If they are unwilling to accept Church teaching as definitive, would it not be better for them to outwardly manifest in their religious affiliation what they already believe inwardly? This would also help to resolve their conflicts with the Church's moral teachings, especially since so many of our Protestant sisters and brothers have officially rewritten doctrine to placate the new hedonism of secular society.

The author(s) claim that their document is a report of what they heard; a reflection on our tradition; and a two-fold response of seeking to remedy injustices women denounce and to promote their positive values. May I also suggest that some of these positive values may not always be the ones substantiated by a majority of women polled. As a teaching document, it may have to also challenge women to go beyond the rhetoric of feminist extremists and seek the Christian perception of womanhood. Those who seek to neuter men and women or who seek to make women more masculine at the cost of castrating men, should be firmly rebuked. Any compromise in this area, would only add more fuel to the fire which makes modern men uncertain about their identity and women more distant from their femininity.

Chapter 1: Partners in Personhood

pg. 10 -- "We do the [menial] work; the men, most often the priests, get the credit." This is a cheap shot against priests who have worked themselves into early graves on the behalf of such people who belittle their contribution.

pg. 10 -- "Relegated to specific sexual roles --virgin, mother, temptress": It may be true that there has been the tendency to value women exclusively for their sexual roles. However, these three themes, favorites of certain feminist theologians, are not always meant as pejorative. I suspect that some women are so afraid of their sexuality and the powers they possess that they stamp these three themes as the diabolic trinity. In actuality, all of us, men and women alike, are sexual beings. These three themes, including the third are a part of us. Virginity extends beyond simply the person who has not engaged in conjugal sex and in the Christian context also refers to the person who has accepted spiritual purity, especially as to love God more fully. The second role of parenthood may be among the human person's greatest opportunities. Even the celibate can lead the young closer to God as good witnesses of God's love and caring. The third, despite the negative connotation, is the kind of flirtation which might add spice to life. The attractiveness of the sexes is a gift from God in which we are to rejoice. However, this does not mean that we have to use these powers to manipulate or to fall into sexual temptation. Men and women have to be happy in who they are and in how they are made. They should not run away from this reality by repressing or denying it. The expression of our sexual identities in chastity and in conjugal love for married couples is a very real and promising thing.

Chapter 2: Partners in Relationships

pg. 24 -- "Cannot more be done, they wonder, for people in second marriages who seek ecclesiastical recognition and participation in the sacraments of reconciliation and communion?" Internal forum might already allow many of these unfortunate people readmission to the sacraments when there is little chance for scandal. However, it is doubtful that this allowance could come outside of some commitment of the parties to live as brother and sister. Without some such attempt, the necessary contrition for Penance would be lacking and even if absolution is received, as soon as the couple engages in conjugal relations, they fall back into sin. The Church did not create the problem. One or the other or both made free decisions earlier to give themselves "until death do us part" and unless proven otherwise, God and his Church take them for their word. The reality they consummate in marriage is not something for which the Church has been given the ready power to dissolve. As for communion, the closed table of the Catholic Church as opposed to the open table (i.e. Episcopalians) has a long and ancient tradition. Certain Protestant revisionists would contend that the Eucharist is a means towards unity. The Catholic Church admits this only in regards as to how this one Eucharist unites and enhances the unity of Catholics throughout the world. Indeed, by not admitting those who possess different beliefs or loyalties, the closed table makes more significant and honored its sharing. For those who are of other denominations, it should nurture a longing hunger for that day when we will all be united in the same Church, sharing one Eucharist. It is an expression of a unity, already achieved. This is the significant reason for asking those who are in serious sin or disunity to refrain from communion. It becomes a sacrilege because what it signifies is not present. It would be a false compassion which would invite people to be hypocrites or as St. Augustine would phrase it, to have the sacrament of salvation come to people's condemnation.

pg. 24 -- "In concrete practice, despite improvements, many criticized the annulment practice as being impersonal, unduly lengthy, humiliating, and depressing." Can the death of a marriage be made a source of pride and uplifting? No. This is a naive observation.

pg. 24 -- "Lesbian women express the pain of exclusion or insensitive pastoral care." Does this mean that we are to excuse lesbian and homosexual debauchery?

pg. 72 -- "Women ask that the Church examine its beliefs and values regarding female sexuality, especially those which are condemnatory or accusatory." I know of no such beliefs. Are they referring to traditional doctrines regarding marriage and virginity? Later on it states that the Church should examine its teaching on "family planning and sex education." I would suggest that it is not the Church but these critics who need to do this! They need to further study the articles of faith and sound moral teachings, making the appropriate sacrifices to live them out.

pg. 26 -- "...alienation was the issue of birth control." I suggest that the developments of NFP as over crude rhythm and the increased sensitivity of priests has made this a mute criticism today. If women continue to have problems with this issue, it is because they place more trust in so-called easy technological solutions than in trusting the Church of Christ and in self-surrender to his will. As for the disagreements among theologians and the wimpishness among certain clergy to teach what the Church offers, it is the great scandal of our age. Especially for clergy, they should remember that they are priests of Jesus Christ in his Church and do not represent themselves. We cannot have the same confidence in our own pet ideas as we can in the Magisterium which is protected by the Holy Spirit.

pg. 26 -- "Some women raise the issues that they are left out of both the discussions and the decisions leading to the evolution of moral teachings that govern their reproductive lives." First, it is not a question of whether or not women are excluded from assisting in making these judgments; certainly many are consulted in the formulations of doctrine. However, the teachers of the Church were chosen by Christ as his Apostles and later their successors. They speak, not with mere human authority, but with God's. Second, the word "evolution" or perhaps better, "development" does not mean reversal as the secret agenda of the feminists here would pose. The moral positions of the Church find their roots in the Gospels and early Church. Later, philosophy would seek to show where the judgment of God was sound. Truth may not always be best represented by so-called representative microcosms or as something arrived at by consensus.

pg. 27 -- "Some women are also concerned that the dialogue about abortion appears to be closed." It is. I would make it an article of faith and indeed, I will not baptize or receive into the Church anyone who feels otherwise. It is the most vile sin of all, attacking at the heart of our faith, the Incarnation of Christ. Every child, wanted or not, is a reflection of the Christ-child! I would suggest that those unwilling to accept this decision, exclude themselves from the Catholic community. It was one of the very first sins condemned by the infant Church. Murder is never a legitimate option.

pg. 27 -- "Women expect the Church to assist in a pastoral way with sex education of their children." It rightly begins at home. How can the Church teach what is being openly criticized or witnessed against in the family?

pg. 41 -- "Even though some women have not remarried, they have still been asked to resign from Eucharistic ministry, religious ministry, religious education classes, and family life committees." Is it demeaning to expect a Christian witness which is not seriously blurred by the trauma of broken promises? Priests who have left ministry are not allowed to teach seminarians. Should Divorced people be allowed to do the same for couples anticipating marriage? I believe the failure of a marriage is always very serious and even if the party is reconciled to the Church, certain posts may make divorce seem like an acceptable option for marriages in difficult straits. Similarly, I would question the entrance of men into these various ministries, including the diaconate, even if a subsequent annulment has been received. It is not a question of sin but scandal and witness.

pg. 42 -- "Neither ought males to urge women to choose abortion as an alternative to an unplanned pregnancy. Women who succumb to such pressure, legitimize and perpetuate male irresponsibility." Although this is true and sexual morality between the sexes still remains essentially whatever women want it to be, this statement of the bishops fails to take into consideration the severe loss of freedom and the attack upon responsibility that such pressure causes. Also, in the cases of minors, there is often parental pressure exerted on the teenager, forcing her with the threat to have an abortion or else -- out of my house -- out of my life!

Chapter 3: Partners in Society

pg. 47 -- "As a black woman, I would never even consider participating in any group that was blatantly racist--yet, I maintain membership in a church that is blatantly sexist." Again, what are some cases of this? If these are matters are incontrovertible doctrine, would it not be better for these individuals to leave our community? After all, this person, already merely calls our faith "a church" instead of the particular Church founded by Jesus. I do not perceive the Church as sexist. Indeed, throughout its long history, great women like Joan of Arc and Theresa of Avila have demonstrated that even in sexist societies the Church was the breeding ground for greatness and holiness among women. Indeed, next to Christ, the greatest human being of all was a woman, Mary!

pg. 51 -- "The church so often seems cold and distant from the poor woman's reality." Why this is, I do not know. The Church in a most special way bleeds out her life's breath for the poor, so many of whom are women. What more can we as Christians do?

pg. 51 -- "...the profile of a poor woman is: female, black, with no high school diploma, unmarried, with at least two children, one of whom is under six." This statistic in union with accusations of insensitivity really bothers me! In this nation, we have free education available to the poor in our public schools and with scholarships, in many of our Catholic schools. How am I or those like myself, who have kept our zippers closed to be held responsible for the whoring of poor black women? Why should society burden itself with the costs of leeches who refuse to take responsibility for their lives but rather allow their destinies to be manipulated by subcultures which belittle education and foster loose sexual morals? Although we have an obligation to the poor is it not as the bishops' document proposes, a partnership in redemption and not parasitical relationship of one-sided dependence and corruption? Through our schools and our faith can we not offer and urge our poor to accept the best that Western culture can offer? As many black educators are saying today, the solutions to the crisis in the African-American community are not going to come from a paternalistic "big government" or "big church" but rather from the black community itself. The time for blaming others is over. Along with the opportunities and benefits of our society should come a renewed sense of dignity and responsibility.

pg. 54 -- the only example of so-called sexism in the Church to be mentioned so far has to do with low salaries for lay-people in general. The question of lack of resources is important here. Also, the early danger of trustees must not be forgotten in giving lay-people more charge of Church funds.

pg. 58 -- "We will support legislation and affirmative action laws that assure women of equal opportunity and treatment and that remove sex discrimination." Would this mean support for such amendments as the now defunct ERA? Would this allow women to decide what they want to do to their bodies including abortion? Do the bishops see abortion as the ultimate discrimination? A local Nazi chapter in Virginia supports abortion in the District of Columbia because of their racism and degradation of womanhood. They support it because they envision it as black genocide. Statistics show that in this abortion capital of the nation, the majority of these aborted children are female -- where are their rights?

Chapter 4: Partners in the Church

pg. 66 -- "God is always a 'he,' which robs a female person of the possibility of seeing herself as an image of God...." This is a point of serious debate. God as the spiritual source of all beings is neither sexually male nor female. However, Christ is male. Some have argued that the life-giving image of the Spirit tends to be feminine. It is with this view in mind that Yves Congar has tried to link this theme closer to the Holy Spirit in reference to Mary who usually assumed most if not all of the piety towards the divine as mother. It may be that she, although a creature, has safeguarded that aspect of God in her own person where the Word became flesh. Having said this, I do not believe that drastic revisions of prayers like "The Our Father" or alternating "mother" for "father" or neutralizing it to "parent" in our forms of liturgical address is appropriate. The other images are too well ingrained; and indeed, in the continuing debates, there may be something peculiarly constitutive about God as Father that would make a substitution erroneous or at least less precise. As for the question of language, the scholar John Ciardi (translator of Dante's Divine Comedy) stated a number of years ago at Xavier University in Cincinnati that language is too fluid to force it to change because of social agendas. This is especially so in regards to masculine/feminine connotations. (However, these are not quite as severe as in many Romance languages where most nouns are divided into gender categories.)

pg. 67 -- "What mars the model of partnership is a false view of church as an exclusive masculine hierarchy rather than a community of God's people made up of lay, ordained, and religious members." There may be some truth here, but what is forgotten is that for the celibate priest, the Church is his whole life. It is all he has. To the extent that he loves and serves his parish, he loves and is faithful to Christ. It is an integral aspect of his celibacy. If he relinquishes his charge, he is left impoverished and spouse less. Cooperation must then be seen as a partnership under the continuing direction and support of the priest. How close this partnership should be might also be problematical. We are human, not robots. Tension, fatigue, shared concerns, fellowship, intimacy, etc. might all be factors to lead a woman to fall in love with the priest with whom she serves (and visa versa). This sounds crude, but past instances show that it is far from uncommon. Distance to preserve personal integrity and fidelity to a promise must not be interpreted as insensitivity.

pg. 68 -- "Christ...was highly empowering of women--the institutional church is not." Another cheap shot! Too general and unspecific! Without the enterprising women, the Church would not exist!

pg. 68 -- ORDINATION OF WOMEN: SEE ESSAY! [not included here]

pg. 74 -- ORDINATION OF WOMEN: SEE ESSAY! [not included here]

pg. 75 -- ORDINATION OF WOMEN: SEE ESSAY! [not included here]

pg. 75 -- ALTAR GIRLS: SEE ESSAY! [not included here]


pg. 81 -- "Such images (domestic and familial) do not reflect the gains women have made in terms of equality and co-responsibility." This is a slap in the face to women who have nurtured these qualities happily. I take serious exception to revisionist leanings regarding Mary who perceive her humble submission to God's will "I am the handmaid of the Lord" as irretrievable. Men and women alike could learn from Mary. Indeed, she has long been a model for priests to accentuate their more feminine qualities in union with the already present masculine.


Note that a later version of the proposed pastoral failed to get enough votes for official promulgation and was simply published and released as a work of the committee. It is interesting that the bishops could not get their so-called experts, who work for THEM, to prepare a document acceptable to the conference. Rome is evidencing similar concerns about the ICEL translators and the proposed liturgy revisions, going so far as to say that the new texts are seriously flawed and display doctrinal deviation. Unfortunately, in this latter case, the American bishops did give their approval. All this is embarassing to say the least and readily leads to scandal.


Last Updated on April 18, 1998 by Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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