Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Saints Day

Today,  we celebrate a singular feast in recalling all those who have been designated as "saints" as well as those who share God's heavenly kingdom with them -- but without a formal proclamation of their sanctity.

This feast day  is a most gracious gift from our Church.  Why?  Simply answered:  this day is a reminder to us on earth that we are, all of us as children of God are recipients of an extraordinary font of grace ... the community of saints.

Through the intercession of those in heaven with our God, sharing in the wonder of his presence, we, as God's children, are the recipients of so many blessings.

Consider the love God has showered upon just the saints you can recall by name or whose life actions you may remember from your reading or study.  Realistically, no doubt, there are many whose lives on earth and in heaven have been marked by an abundance of divine love.   And these same blessed men and women remind me and you, hopefully, that we do not progress on our faith journey alone.  God travels with us and graces us because there are member of the community of the saints who ask God to protect us, to enlighten us and to help us achieve your mission in life.

Therefore, today the first day of the month when our cultural mores focus upon pilgrim progress, we are brought to gratitude.  Today ours is a duty to give thanks for the gift of the saints and their care for us in so many known and unknown ways that bring us closer to our God.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Grant him eternal rest, Lord.

Please remember a priest friend who died yesterday at the age of 58 at the end of another school day at Gonzaga High School in Washington, DC.  Fr. Allen Novotny had led this DC Jesuit school for a number of years so successfully continuing the legacy of Fr. Bernie Dooley and in creating his own legacy for the "Eye Street Boys."  Yes, I was one of them.  What a shock and sudden loss for the Jesuit and Gonzaga communities.  Eternal rest grant unto Allen, your faithful and dedicated priest, Lord.

Thursday: The Lesser Knowns

Just as in everyday life, you can find people who do have significant places in the society of their time but who have little center-stage presence.  These are the people who just go about their business, seeking to accomplish what is expected of them.  You know people like this.  Indeed, you yourself may be such a person.

Today the Church honors two of the truly "chosen" in our family history:  Sts. Simon and Jude.  You will find their name listed among the Apostles (Luke 6:12-16).  You might read the list of names closely to discover whose name you thought might be there ... like St. Mark, St. Luke, St. Paul!!!! 

Simon (notice there were two Simons) and Jude (notice that there were two Judases in addition to the two Simons) were chosen by Jesus to be among his closest collaborators.  We can assume that these two men did there "thing" as Apostles, going out and carrying to others the message and teachings of Jesus Christ.  What we do see about that that we can recall happily is that they did not feel the need to write accounts of their labors.  These were men who found ministry in being present to people wherever they went.

What do they offer you and me today?  Simplicity.  Just doing their tasks.  Commitment to the life they accepted, living out the calling brought them ever close to Jesus Christ. Perhaps these men may be like many of us today:  men and woman who go about the responsibilities that come to us with our vocations, whatever they might be.  Most of us, thankfully, never make the front pages of the local paper.  For many of us the only time we make the newspaper is when the community is notified that our lives on this earth have ended.  As with the lesser know Apostles and their works, perhaps our work is known only by a few but among that few will be Jesus Christ.  Who could want it otherwise?

Please note that absence is necessary again.  Duties with the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre will be taking up my days from now until Sunday afternoon in Baltimore.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Today the selected readings from St Paul to the Ephesians will conclude our opportunity to understand further the spirituality of the man.  As we know his was alife that had the power of exciting the heats and lives of many even to this very day.

Ephesians 6:1-9 includes such verbs or verbal forms as "obey," "honor," "bring up," "be obedient" and "willingly serve" to instruct the people about the Christian way of life.  What actions are these that we evaluate in our lives to determine the worth, the value of what we do?

Paul is saying that we do what we do or do not do occurs because of one or another of two basi reasons or forces that give our lives impetus.  The first is this:  actions are at root driven by commitment to live as Jesus Christ has taught us to live.  The second reason is this:  actions are carried out because of a commitment to the power of a spirit contrary to Jesus Christ.  It is engaging in either one or the other that dictates the way we live.

Yes, Paul speaks about slavery and the life of a servant.  Gratefully times have changed at least in our country and on most levels of our social being.  However, his message is as valid for those who live in freedom as for victims of slavery.  He stresses that before slavery, we are, all of us, equal to one another:  we are God's children.

So, regardless of one's position in society, in academia, even in religion, we are God's children.  Some years ago friend we elevated from his position as Bishop to the College of Cardinals.  A reporter from his home town in New England spoke with the Cardinal's mother.  He said something like this: "You must be very proud today."  Her reply was, perhaps, more than he expected:  "I have been proud of all my sons -- no one of them is any better than the other.  Each of them has special talents but what gives me the greatest sense of pride or satisfaction is that each one of them seeks to do the will of God in his chosen profession."  The stunned reported ended the interview with these words:  "Well, I guess that sums it up for us, doesn't it?"

Monday, October 25, 2010

TUESDAY: The Misunderstood Submission

Here, in Ephesians 5:21-33, we encounter a part of Paul’s thinking that has annoyed many women and some men, in particular some ministers of most religions.  Unfortunately cultural struggles lead people reading this part of Paul’s writings to pay little attention to the power and challenge this great writer offers the world.

“Be submissive to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  This sentence, by the way is in the verses cited above.  His words are not directives aimed at enslaving women.  Rather, I propose for your prayer that Paul’s exhortation is a summons to men and women alike, especially to those who are married or planning to become husband and wife, to love one another to the fullest.

Paul is calling all to be subordinate to each other.  It is the reminder that each person is a creation of God, that human beings are sacred.  As such, each husband and wife is called  upon to always remember that the other, the spouse, is not meant to be a slave for one’s purposes or needs of any kind.  The mystery Paul presents to us is the mystery of love.  Perhaps the great and sometimes painful demands of love are causes realities that cause individuals to abandon the respect, the genuine love that Paul encourages for all men and women.

Paul reminds his readers that Jesus Christ is the model for all human beings in living a life of respect for others.  It was Jesus’ love for all that have him the strength to utter these words:  Father, mot my will but your will be done.  We also say or hear these words often:  Jesus so loved the world (each person created by God in particular) that he suffered and died for the forgiveness of our sins.  Those two words, “so love:, are the driving force in Paul’s heart.  Can we not say that in his “so loving” the world and all of us living in it that he “subordinated” himself to each of us, men and women who have sinned, so that our punishment for sin could be removed?

This is the great mystery of love that seems to be lost because one word is understood with only one meaning.  What a power this has been in undermining the love that is the heart of Paul’s message.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Continuing along, praying with the words and thoughts that Paul wrote to the Christians in the City of Ephesus, we come upon words that may remind a reader of a grandfather or grandmother.  These are Paul's words to those who are special to him.  He reminds them that they should be kind to  one another.  Why?  Simply stated:  Because God was super-kind to each of us.  Because Jesus Christ was willing to endure torture and crucifixion so that God the Father would forgive the sins of humankind.

It is important for us today to examine how kindness, how forgiving exist in our daily lives.  So easily most human beings forget that they are creatures of God:  they are not Gods exercising judgement on other individuals who may not meet our standards or expectations.

At the end of each day, how different life might be for humanity if each person did examine his or her conscience to determine if there were moments when anyone of us tried to play God.  Were there times during the day that has come to an end when the love Jesus Christ displayed for us was not the driving force behind our own actions?  Yet, we are a people who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Paul is playing the grandfather/mother trying to instill in our hearts that we are children of God who have been called by special vocations to live out the promises of our baptisms.  Listening to him as you read the words, imagine him speaking not to the people of Ephesus to you.

30th Sunday: Life is Worth Living

[Your blogger friend returns.  The past week has been tied up with caring for a brother who had two procedures that impacted his life ... his heart.  Thankfully these necessary actions have given him an assurance of longer life.  It is my hope for him that he will now become much like St Paul and the message he passes on to us in his writing we hear or read today,  2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18.]
Each day most daily papers publish the summary story of so many men and women.  You will find these stories in the obituary section of your paper.  This is what you find in the Ephesians letter today.  Paul is writing his own final chapter of his life:  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  These are the words of a man who has completed much in a lifetime that scholars guesstimate to have end in its sixth decade.  His words indicate that life is a struggle.  He did fight the good fight.  For Paul, life was a spiritual engagement between what God wanted of him and his own wants.  But he make it clear that to live a good life is to know real struggle.

Paul also suggests that a life well lived is a life that has its moments of purpose.  In our times it seems that money, popularity, prestige and power are the goals of so many lives.  For Paul these were realities that made life a struggle.  For this man who composed more than half of the New Testament genuine success was not winning the race.  No, his success was in finishing the race.  Success for this missionary of extraordinary feats was simple but a challenge:  he felt that he had accomplished what God wanted him to do, to be.  He heard his mission from God and did all that he could possibly do to make it real in his lifetime.

Lastly, we can see in Paul's life that a good life is informed by faithfulness.  Paul wrote that "I have kept the faith."  For this dedicated follower of Jesus Christ a good life was one that kept integrity intact, maintain his honor purely, and nurtured a soul what was sound.  For him success was not money, popularity, prestige or power.  Success for him was to have lived he lived well in relationship with Jesus Christ.

Truly, as followers of Jesus Christ, it is no different for us today.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wednesday: The Entrusted

Apparently many in Rome are awaiting words from Pope Benedict XVI during his Wednesday audience that there will be a Consistory -- the elevation of a number of Bishops and/or Archbishops to the Sacred College of Cardinals.  A local Rome newspaper, according to Whispers in the Loggia, has published a list of possible names.  The two Americans on the suggested list are the current Archbishop of Washington, Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Archbishop Raymond Burke, formerly Archbishop of St. Louis and currently the head of the Sacred Roman Rota.  But now, back to the realities that impact our personal worlds.  Enough "Tiber Gossip."

Surely the following is not unfamiliar to most adults:  "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."  These words were penned to God's people by St. Luke in his gospel, Chapter 12, verse 48.

For a few moments, let's consider a twice-used word from that sentence:  "entrusted."  In our experience the word is often used with regard to something of value given to another person's care or concern.  Sometimes we do not consider ourselves so blessed.  Others are gifted more so than ourselves, we think, and we don't see these words applying to ourselves.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Much, very much has been entrusted to each of us.  Consider the responsibilities you carry each day regardless of your state in life.  All of us are "entrusted" with responsibilities that are caring moments for others.  So, in fact, more is expected of us because we ourselves are the recipients of some many divine graces.  Perhaps you might list for yourself what has been entrusted to you simply by being who and what you are.

In light of what might be announced between four and five o'clock our time Wednesday morning, the word "entrusted" surely will have a special significance for the lives of a number of individuals   whose names may be announced in St. Peter's Square.
Let us stand in awe
of all God has entrusted to us.


Today the Church and in particular the Society of Jesus celebrates the memory and valor of two particular Jesuit martyrs and others with them.  Isaac Jogues, John De Brebeuf and their colleagues are dubbed the North American Martyrs.  Their dedication, their desire to bring reconciliation between different Indian tribes and those coming from Europe to North America required the sacrifice of their own lives.  Why?  Because they were bringing peace to warring parties!

Several years ago, Paul, the great tent maker of Tarsus, did not hold the fascination for me that now has captured my attention.  It was the Year of St. Paul initiated by Pope Benedict XVI and, hopefully some wisdom amassed over many years, that opened my mind and heart to two realities:  (1) Paul himself had become a man captured by a specific man and his mission --- Jesus Christ; (2) the firebrand, Paul, spoke and wrote as he did because he allowed his mind to be converted by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Today's reading (Ephesians 2:12-22) presents Jesus in a manner we may too readily dismiss with "Well, that's who he is."  Paul writes "For he is our peace."  He reminds the Ephesians and us that at one time they were with Christ, without God and alienated from the Christian community.  Through Jesus they had become one with God and the community.  How?  His suffering, his death, his body and blood celebrated in the Eucharist was the reality that brought them into the fold.

Paul has reflected on what happened in Jesus' life and understands Jesus to be the peace that has brought them together.  It was Jesus who "broke down the dividing wall of enmity."  He is the one who had bought and brought "reconciliation with God."

What else to we experience in our world that is stronger than peace?  The answer is simple:  we experience division.  We are witnesses to dividing walls being built in so many places.  Politicians speak about the great financial debt being put upon our grandchildren.  Would someone please consider the hatred and division that is being put into their hearts NOW by the divisions we are creating throughout the world?  In my lifetime and yours we have witnessed walls between nations, along national borders, in tightly woven ethnic or racial parts of our cities, in our churches between so-called "traditionalists" and "charismatics," between people of different sexual orientations and, lastly, between members of our own families.  We have become a world walling God out of our daily experiences.  In so doing we are rejecting the reconciliation Jesus died for to deliver to his Father, our Father.

And what does this mean for you and for me -- for all humanity?  Have I built walls between myself and God because of my self-centeredness?  Between myself and others through lying, defaming, stealing and ridiculing?  Have I destroyed peace between myself and others by gossiping, by refusing to listen with an open mind, by refusing to accept people of other religions, by mocking and denigrating another person's heritage or disabilities?

Is the "mess" in our world today any different at its root from what the North American Martyrs confronted as they sought to bring about peace and reconciliation?

The Lord teaches the bumble his way.
He guides the gentle-hearted  along the right path.

Monday, October 18, 2010

MONDAY: St. Luke a Man of Several "Callings"

A special feast day for those who follow Jesus!  Not an apostle but treated as such, Luke was a disciple attracted to the life of the apostles by the words and works of the apostles through the inspiration and motivational works of another disciple, likewise treated as an apostle, St. Paul.

Newly beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman, English prelate, taught his hearers and readers that our lives are an experience of "callings," an experience of "vocations."  So often the human being discovers, almost daily, a "calling" to accompish something that well might be an answer to along-sought searchings or simply a task that God knows is your skilll.

Isn't it clear that we who profess our belief in Jesus Christ have a unique and not so hidden "calling" in our world today.  I believe we do.  Your baptism and your confirmation are true callings, a genuine commands from God to live a model life that will bring about impacts in the communities where you reside and where you are employed.  Imagine how different our Church might be had Peter reacted as the young man who rejected the invitation because his many possession were to distracting.  Consider how our treasure of New Testament writings would be had Paul reacted differently to those first few days after his encounter with God's call to him.
It is examples such as these that serve as reminders to us that prayer is so very needed to be able to "hear" or "see" if God's calling to you not just once or twice but each day.

Come let us listen to the Lord
who speaks to us
through the treasures of Sacred Scripture.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Prayerful Remembrances, Please

As you may know, my blog has been temporarily suspended until I return from a series of meetings and presentations in NYC and Boston.  However, my time away has been truly weighed down by the news that two people I had presented to you for your prayers died this week both almost precisely at the same time:  one in Huntingtown, MD and the other in Germantown, MD.

So, I commend to your prayers Mrs. Shirley Enright, wife of Deacon Timothy Enright, of Mother Seton Parish and Mr. Al Caplins, husband of Lill Caplins of Jesus the Divine Word Parish.  Please remember them and their families in your prayers.  These are two marvelous families.  If there were Deaconesses in our Church surely Lill would be one ... actually she has done almost as much as a Deacon does.  Tim, of course, is a Deacon and has been a tremendous clergy person in the parish.  For both Lill and Tim, giving back to God the gift of their lifelong spouse is not easy.  It is truly painful.  However, with our prayers and the prayers of the parish communities where Lill and Tim have worked, they will be blessed and the pain of loss will be somewhat ease.  Surely the sufferings both Al and Shirley endured are signs to me that their purgatory is ended and that today they are with the Lord in their new home.

I will resume the regular postings of the blog on Tuesday, October 19th.

Eternal rest grant until Shirley and Al, O Lord, as they join you and the communion of saints in heaven.  Amen.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wednesday: Caught in the Bind

Paul, always a man who would stand for what he believed,  shares with his readers and hearers a moment of encounter with Peter also called Cephas.  Paul states very clearly in the letter to the Galatians that he believed that Peter was wrong.  He would not dine with the non-Jewish people.  These were the Gentiles.  Peter had fallen victim that that universal problem of life:  not being strong enough to stand up against those one believes to be wrong.

Some would call this exclusion.  Others would point to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles that were contained in the gospels.  Were not all called to be one, especially those who accepted the calling?  And don't we encounter the same experiences today?  Surely we know Catholics who speak out against some of the Church's teachings.  For some it is truly a cross because there is a spirit of conviction in their hearts about some matters of faith and morals.  Have we not encountered those who seek approval and acceptance regardless of any other presentation?  How difficult it is for us to see people not receiving the Eucharist, the very body and blood of Jesus Christ because they are confronted by leaders who maintain what I would hear said when I was a child:  "not tickee, no shirtee."  Again this example and many others bring us to the reality of accepting what the Church teaches.  Some what away from it in anger or hurt.  However, how much more can be done if there were greater discussions and much prayer.

Perhaps today's gospel event, the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray, might be a signal to us that when we are confronted by an issue or several difficult issues in our faith we should be like the apostles and pray the prayer that Jesus taught them.  Resolution will only come when study and reflection followed by honest discussion have taken place.  Doesn't it seem that in our times there is this need for my prayer, reflection and study?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tuesday: Here We Go Again!!!

Today's gospel we have heard on numerous occasions:  homilies, lectures, retreats.  This moment in the lives of Jesus, Martha and Mary might be one of the great "guilt trip" gifts that are given to us throughout the course of the year.  We either condemn ourselves because we come to know that we are so driven at times that we put our own spirituality, our own relationship with Jesus Christ, on the back burner of our day-to-day lives.

The pace of modern society is becoming more and more set by the presence of computers and 24/7/365 new reporting on radios and televisions.  Are there not days when your inner being wants to scream out "Give me a break.  Ease up for God's sake!"  Are there not times when frustrations, caused by seemingly non-ending problems and demands from others, bring about overwhelming desires to walk away from what we are doing?

The story of Martha and Mary is really a one-act play about each person's having to deal with who he or she truly is:  my quiet, reflective side and that "go get 'em" side that is far from reflective.  What we have to acknowledge is that Jesus is trying to do a little teaching with his audience.  He is not condemning Martha.  Clearly there was no catering company present to make the dinner and prepare all that was need for the invited guests.  No, Jesus is simply teaching this:  the great personal riches and satisfactions come from the quiet, reflective moments that should be a part of daily life.  There will always be the need for work, for attention to others rather than aloneness with ourselves and our God.  The message is simple:  there's a time and place for work, a time and place for doing but there is also a time and a need for quiet, for reflection.

Our lives will always present the challenge for us to choose:  quiet or doing at different parts of the day.  Winston Churchill is known for this thought:  "We make a living by what we get [the Martha side of our lives]. We make a life by what we give [the Mary side of our lives].  Only when we take quiet time, distancing ourselves from the business of our existence, only then can we begin to know who we are, what we are and where we should be with our lives.  We cannot fully give of who we are with all its wonder if we don't know what that abundance is that we have.  And this is true:  the more you give of yourself to that quiet time to hear the Lord, the more you will receive in your life.

Monday: St. Francis of Assisi

Let me begin today's reflection with a request.  A close friend, Shirley, is dying of cancer.  Mother of two adult children, grandmother of a 4 year old grandson who loves MaMa so much, Shirley and her husband, Tim, were told yesterday that she has two weeks, not more than two months, to live.  The cancer that had been under control for the last two years suddenly exploded.  The unrelenting enemy had spread throughout her body.  Would you please add her to your list of prayers as well as Tim and their children?  Thank you.  Now to our brother, Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace!

Today's world is fighting wars in more than one place.  Throughout this land, the annual off-year political elections have instigated wars of words that belittle humankind.  From battlefield, to campaign ads, to family dining rooms peace has been driven away.

Francis' prayer also says "(Lord) where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon."  This petition is a challenge to those who profess a Christian faith.  We hear often the sentence "What would Jesus do?"  Well we might add "... if he were here among us today."

This is the challenge to us ... to be his spokesperson today.  Ours is the challenge to be that instrument of peace where we can change hardened hearts to understanding, to pardon.  There is just to much bitterness and genuine hatred amongst us.

Let Francis be your guide so that you can bring light where there is darkness, joy where there is sadness, love where there isn't.  Remember the final part of Francis' prayer:  "it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,  it is in dying that we are born to Eternal life."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Saturday/Sunday: Just What Is Faith?

(The weekend reflection is posted early because this blogger with be away overnight celebrating my "oldest" brother's 65 birthday, returning tomorrow in time for a meeting and then Saturday confessions and the vigil Mass where he assists.  The reflection for Friday follow just beneath this entry.)

Faith!  What is this reality we call faith?  One prominent  preacher of the 20th century once described faith not as something we get.  It is, rather, something that we have.  Perhaps it is this differentiation that makes faith somewhat confusing in our lives.

In the first reading from Habakkuk, we hear a frustrated man describe his and the peoples’ faith as withered, dormant and shrived.  Ultimately he comes to recognize faith as “the God-breathed nature of being a human being.  We don’t get it.  We have it within us because of God’s creative act.

In the second reading, Paul writes to Timothy about his faith as “a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.”  Faith is something Timothy had, something inherited from him parents and grandparents.

So, it is not unexpected that the disciples who had been following Jesus for some time would say to him “Increase our faith.”  It was not a request for faith but rather a petition for an increase of faith, a deeper understanding of what faith is.

Now let’s consider what Jesus said in reply.  He likens faith to a mustard seed to teach that even the smallest amount of faith can do wonders.  That said, however, it is interesting that Jesus uses what truly is a strange image.  If you have faith, you can order that mulberry tree that you see there to be uprooted and replanted on the bottom of the sea.  Now stop for a moment.  How long would a mulberry tree last, planted on the bottom of the sea?  Before long it would, you might say, drown!

Jesus is teaching the disciples that faith is not like a magic show.  Tap the talk black hat with a small baton and “Poof,” out comes a rabbit.  Wizardry is not what Jesus is teaching.  Rather, he is trying to teach that faith is a reality in each person and when it is called upon we draw remarkable power from it.

Some scripture scholars describe faith as a birthright.  As a human being made in the image and likeness of God, having within us the very being of God is to be one of God’s creatures with a characteristic faith.  Take examples of our different kinds of faith:  (1) taking that first step as a child into the awaiting arms of a proud parent; (2) putting your feet on the floor first thing in the morning, trusting that the sun is or soon will be bringing warmth to our part of the world; (3) exhausted and unemployed parents believing their search efforts for a job will be fulfilled; and (4) the confidence that a patient has in his/her surgeon as conscious awareness fades away into sleep on an operating table.  Faith can be found in so many places of our lives.  It is a birthright.

Faith, when considered carefully and prayerfully, can be likened to the smallest particle of nature which explodes into a reality so many times larger and providing so much for others.  Imagine the power of even the slightest wind that propels the blades of a windmill that lights an entire city.

We get our faith from our birthright but also from others whose lives have become that tiny atom that stirs us to greatness.  We just have to stop and look around us.  Countless are the resources that increase our faith, the faith that was ours at our birth.  It is when we embrace our faith and strive to make it a constant mindfulness in our minds and heart that we experience a genuine spirituality that can change our lives to greatness.

Yours is the gift of faith.  Embrace it.  Learn how to let it grow not at the bottom of a sea but in your heart.  Make it the operative force within your mind and heart.  Like the disciples, every day, ask your God to “increase your faith,” your faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, our savior and our God.  Likewise ask God to increase your faith in YOURSELF because you are one who through your Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist accept and proclaim your intention to be his follower.  He is the source of life, the life that increases your faith, that gives you the power to be the marvelous creature he has given to the world.

Friday: Are We Sincere?

Today's gospel gives us a chance to see that Jesus was much more than an idealistic man who has no fear of facing harder realities.  The event portrayed may have been one of those days for Jesus when he realizes that much of his preaching and teaching seems to have had more impact in the lives of the Gentiles rather than the ways of life of the Jewish people and those who have been walking the walk with him.  Woe to Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum!!!  The residents of these towns, where Jesus did spend many days proclaim the Good News, seem to have become lackadaisical with regard to his messages to them and how they should live there lives.  It is the tough teacher we confront in the gospel today.  So, what does the message mean to you?  To me?  What would Jesus be saying to the Christian followers in our Church?

What seems to be the thorn that was jabbed into Jesus' work is a complacency.  He turns to Gentile towns as comparative subjects.  The residents in those towns seem to have adopted a stronger way of living.  They were willing to be repentant, to recognize that they had sinned at different times in their lives.

The questions for us today relate specifically to how we live our lives.  It is not an unknown reality that many of the Church's teachings based on the teachings of Jesus have become a matter of choice in the minds and hearts of many "followers" of Jesus.  Where are they following him?  It is a reality that the Sacrament of Reconciliation means little if anything to many Catholics today.  Lost is the belief that we are not perfect, that we have sins that to us are addressed simply by saying, "I am sorry, God."

Here is a scenario?  When children are growing, the parents almost always insist that a child who has hurt or offended another child has to go to that child and apologize for his/her actions/words.  We know well that if that were not done, the child would become one of society's great offenders.  The mindset would become "I can do whatever I want to do."

It is no different for us who are adults.  Sinfulness has the same impact on our lives if we do not take the time to admit to God that we have offended him, that we may have sinned by failing to live up to the Commandments and the teachings of our Church.  It is an amazing reality that when an individual comes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after many years absence the person will say something like this:  "It's been a long time.  I cannot tell you my sins.  I have forgotten them."  Then, if asked, did you even think to say "I have sinned, God:  I am sorry?"  So often the answer is "I cannot remember that either."  What is being said?  Isn't it something like "You know I really have cared how I have lived my life during those days."  There is no sign of accountability.  Doing whatever seems good at the time is what was done whether moral or immoral, whether ethical or unethical?  What does repentance mean to us today?

It is a tough gospel.  I may well be one that many Catholics need to listen to and seriously consider its message in their lives.