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Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings 

Perhaps many of you know that I spent most of last week in El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico, on an immersion experience of the immigration crisis, along with 15 other priests. Our goal was to understand the immigration issue in depth, to express solidarity with the immigrants, to visit them at the various refugee shelters in El Paso and Juarez, and to pray at the border with Bishop Mark Sietz of El Paso along with other religious leaders.  

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Scripture Readings

I'm currently enrolled in a Christology class as I pursue my masters. During the opening Q&A of my last class, one of my classmates asked about Mary. At one point in his answer, my professor called her the "Exemplar lay person." On this feast of her nativity I want to see where that takes us.

Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Lots of studies show that multitasking isn't very good for us.  We don't, actually, think better when we do too many things at once.  We don't, in fact, learn more when we multitask; in fact whatever we think we have learned is harder to remember and more difficult to retrieve.  We don't, actually, get more done when we multitask.  When we pay too much attention to cell phones and Facebook, our IQ points actually drop!

Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I’m a skeptic at heart, so when I read today’s Gospel reading I can’t help but put myself in Simon’s shoes (or sandals, or whatever).  I imagine having tried for hours to catch fish unsuccessfully and then someone telling me to go out and try again.  I’m sure I would roll my eyes and think of myself as wise enough not to give it another try.  However, Simon doesn’t do that in today's gospel reading.  Instead he seems to foolishly trust in Jesus’ command and casts his nets for another try which results in a bounty that he can hardly handle.  In the end it seems that he would have even been more foolish not to admit the limits of his own wisdom had he chosen to not trust in Jesus’ command.  Its this mentality that I believe Paul is calling us to embrace in the first reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians.  That perhaps there is a connection between foolishness and wisdom rooted in our own flawed human nature. 

Wednesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

God has a plan for you. It is a plan that only you can carry out. We assume we all know that, but rarely do we state it so plainly. I hope I’m not the first person to ever tell you this. But in case I am, I’m going to repeat myself, God has a plan for you.

Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the abuse of power – primarily in politics and, sadly, in the Church. Today’s gospel reading (Luke 4:31-37) presents Jesus as having authority and power over an “unclean spirit” to the amazement of the people who witnessed it. Although news of his power and authority spread “everywhere in the surrounding region,” Jesus remained humble; he never abused his power.  I wonder how he felt about having that power. Did it surprise him? Scare him? Was he tempted by it?  Did he feel the weight of responsibility that comes with such power? 

Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

Scripture Readings

How often do we pray, “God-What do you want me to do?” Recently, I have begun to realize that God may be more interested in helping us understand who He wants us to be, so we can then realize what He wants us to do.  Both scripture readings today describe how the Spirit helps us to be filled with God’s power. It is the Spirit within that helps us know who we are, so we can be sent forth to do what God wants.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I have received numerous e-mails or phone calls from parishioners who have been concerned about the child sexual abuse scandal. The concern is on multiple levels – for the abused, for the faith of God’s people, and also for me. I received numerous e-mails and messages enquiring about my well-being.  Thank you for all this. I would be lying to you if I said that I am not struggling. I am more than struggling. I feel despondent, discouraged, and overwhelmed. The question I am asking myself is – what now? I joined the seminary when I was 17 years old. I am fifty-two years old now. The Church is all I have known. I have loved the Church like a man would love his family. Intentionally, consciously, and even aware of her imperfections, I have given my life to the Church. What now? What does my priesthood mean now? I am wondering if you are asking yourself, “What does my Catholicism mean now?” 

Saturday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

This past summer we hosted an inter-generational VBS at the parish. It was four evenings and I think the whole thing went rather well. While the little ones were doing various activities, the adults spent half of there session doing a communal lectio divina, or prayerful reading of the day's scripture passage. The passage we selected for the last day was today's gospel, the Parable of the Talents. Half a session was not enough time to pray and process this passage!

Friday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I cannot remember how many times I have said to myself, “How could I be so foolish?” In one instance, I asked a rather “well-rounded” lady if she was pregnant. To my total embarrassment, she was not. But, how could I, who has a Masters in Communication and Doctorate in Theology, be so stupid? Well, today’s scriptures may have some answers.

Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Years ago when I first started paying attention to the daily readings, I questioned why the Church picked so many of Paul’s long salutations to read in Mass.  ‘Where’s the message?’ I thought. ‘What’s the point of reading so many fancy hellos?’  Depending on how you read it, between half and all of today’s first reading is Paul’s greeting to the Church in Corinth.  I wanted to ‘get on with it’ and ‘get to the meat’ of what the Spirit wanted me to hear.  Ironically, this probably caused me to miss it. But reading it today, in the midst of another church sexual abuse crisis (this time with additional allegations of cover-up by the highest levels of the hierarchy), perhaps we can appreciate it in a whole new way.

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

Scripture Readings

Today’s memorial celebrates martyrdom/passion of John the Baptist.  The date of this memorial likely corresponds with the date of the dedication of the church of St. John the Baptist in Samara.  This church commemorates the location where tradition holds that St. John the Baptist was buried. 

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Scripture Readings

One of the great joys of summer is the fruit that becomes available. In our house, the big favorites right now are local peaches. Within just a day or two of purchasing them, they are ripe and juicy. The only down side of having a pile of them in a bowl on our kitchen counter is the relentless presence of fruit flies. I’ve tried covering the fruit bowl with a towel, putting the fruit in a closed container, and encouraging everyone to eat the peaches quickly before the fruit flies show up. I even bought “Fruit Punch”—a concoction that comes in a plastic container that attracts fruit flies when the lid to the container is open. They fly in but can’t get back out. Despite all my efforts, they persist.

Memorial of Saint Monica

Scripture Readings

"The more hidden the divine operation beneath an outwardly repulsive appearance, the more visible it is to the eye of faith." This quote is by the spiritual master Jean Pierre de Caussade, a French Jesuit priest who lived during the 17th and 18th centuries. Fr. Caussade's writings came to mind while reading today's Scriptures. The brief passage from 2 Thessalonians and its words about faith stayed with me for quite a while leading me to reread some of his thoughts on the subject.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Finally, after five weekends, we have reached the end the Bread of Life discourse. We could only wish that the discourse ends well. But it does not. It ends letting the readers know that many of Jesus’ disciples “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him (Jn 6:66). Just as you prepare yourself for a bad ending, there is a glimpse of hope. Jesus came to the Twelve and asked them, "Do you also want to leave?" (Jn 6:67). Peter’s response warms every believer’s heart. "Master, to whom shall we go?” he says, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). (As an aside, please keep Peter’s confession at the back of your mind. We will return to it later). Just when you think that the story has a happy ending, John gives us this devastating news: Jesus said to the Twelve: “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil? He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot (Jn 6:70-71). The story will ultimately end well, but for that we must until the resurrection. 

Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

My undergraduate degree was a double major between History and English, so it should come as no surprise that amid all the richness of today’s readings, I was drawn to four lines of a poem. In the middle of our selection from Psalm 85 we find these lines. “Kindness and truth shall meet;/ justice and peace shall kiss./ Truth shall spring out of the earth,/ and justice shall look down from heaven.” As we seek to live heaven on earth, I find myself echoing the longings of the Psalmist in these four lines as he envisions life when God’s reign is fulfilled.

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Scripture Readings

A friend of mine and I were talking this week about labels, especially the political labels that we hear tossed around so often during election season: "liberal", "conservative," "Republican" "Democrat" and so on.  Both of us pointed out to each other that we didn't really feel like we fit neatly into any of those categories, that there were some things about us that might make people think we're conservative, but other things that might make us seem liberal.  We thought "moderate" didn't really do us justice either, since we both hold our views very passionately, and moderate sometimes implies a kind of easy-going passive kind of nature (rightly or wrongly). So we found ourselves frustrated by the labels. 

Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

In today’s readings, we see a theme of sin and redemption with God’s love shining throughout. The passage from the prophet Ezekiel is a well-known one: here God reveals his dedication to the people of Israel who have turned away from him. The Lord speaks of bringing the people back, cleansing them from their false worship, and giving them a “new heart” and a “new spirit” (Ez. 36:26). Even though the people have deserted God and worshiped other gods, the Lord remains faithful, and in this fidelity to his sinful people, God is willing to do the cleansing, to give the people another chance. 

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Scripture Readings

The theme of the good shepherd is a common thread for today’s readings.  We come across Ezekiel just after he learns of Jerusalem’s fall.  Ezekiel had already been in exile for twelve years.  Ezekiel’s prophecy against the shepherds of Israel reads like a job description of a bad shepherd:  you feed yourself instead of your sheep, you do not search for those who have strayed or are lost, and you do not strengthen the weak or heal the sick.  The prophet is challenging the leaders of the faith, who have failed to hear the word of the Lord.  The story does not end here.  The Lord, the Good Shepherd, promises to search for the lost sheep and gather them back into their land.

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope

Scripture Readings

I have to confess that I find in today’s gospel reading (a continuation of yesterday’s) one of the more challenging gospel passages. “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24) I find myself wanting to argue my way out of the challenge with defenses such as, “well, how rich does he mean?” or “rich compared to whom?” “I’m certainly no millionaire!” Yes, there is a part of me that would like to hear the opposite, such as that we will be rewarded with material wealth in this world AND the eternal riches in the next if we follow Jesus (I’m really not promoting Prosperity Theology).