Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Surely the folks who brought a paralyzed man to Jesus heard a little more than they probably expected.  Certainly the scribes did!  Instead of saying "Be healed!" to the man, Jesus says "Courage ... your sins are forgiven."  Only after that does Jesus heal the man.  The scene here where Jesus mixes two realities, sin and healing, is confusing to some and maybe to some who read the text today.

What is the problem?  It is simple:  is the paralysis the result of sinning?  Again, some might think this is the situation.  We have that reality in our world today.  There are some who continue to believe that HIV AIDS and AIDS itself are God's punishment to immorality and drug abuse.  I remember that when cancer began to take a spotlight from other diseases, many were attributing the disease to sinfulness.

So what is the meaning in Matthew's account of what happened?  Again, it is rather simple to state but perhaps more difficult to believe or live.  Jesus putting the healing of the soul before the healing of the body  was his way of leading people to understand that healing the body should give doubters the proof that if he can heal the body, Jesus can also heal the soul.

Just recently someone said to me that he could not forgive himself for some of the sins of his past life.  This I have heard many times both in the confessional and outside.  Stop and think:  if someone truly believes this about himself/herself -- that he/she cannot forgive himself/herself -- that seems to be something of an offense against God himself.  God forgives all.  Doesn't not being able to forgive oneself put the self above God?  If God can forgive a sin of one person's life, that person is not greater than God and must seek help in coming to forgive him/herself.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

906: Wednesday  Sts Peter and Paul

(El Greco)

Surely we recognize Peter and Paul as two remarkable persons in the early days of our Church.  We have to recognize them as remarkable persons in the Church today -- if we take the time to read their writings and consider all that they managed to bring about during their lifetimes.

Consider these thoughts:
1.  Their backgrounds.  A fisherman and a tent maker become the two leading figures in a Church founded by Jesus Christ. And one of these detested the Christians.

2.  Their personalities.  Surely Peter was a man few would have chosen to be a leader of a major organization that was charged with changing the world.  Without any doubt Paul was a man whose spirit was driven by a purpose.

3.  Their successes.  Peter did much to bring the new Church to others and to serve as a reasonably successful leader of the Apostles after Jesus died.  Paul clearly stood out as a firebrand who was totally committed to his mission.  Imagine what our Church might have become had Peter and Paul not taken to the preaching trail.

Today as we celebrate their joint feasts day recall this:  despite each man's distinct martyrdom, neither allowed the storms to sink their boats, as it were.  These two men gave so much of themselves to build strong walls of support for the early Church.  Where would we be today without them?

Monday, June 27, 2011


Weather seems to be an important part of each person's life.  Seemingly modern folks have to know the latest weather report more than once each day.  Radio stations have the weather report every hour minimally.  Some stations report every then minutes.  Most storms seem to impact us more powerfully in today's culture than in years past when Doppler Radar and other similar weather helps did not exist.  How many times each day do you ask someone who has just come into an office or home this question:  "What's the weather like out there?" even though there are windows in the office or home!

In the bible the storms that are recounted usually represent trouble that, in many cases, is solved by divine intervention.  What would we do if the words from Revelation 21:1 were true today:  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  Apparently in the Book of Revelations vision of the new earth and the new heaven no longer will there be a need for the old heaven and the old earth.  Something new will be created by God.

In the meantime we encounter many storms in our lifetime.  A Liturgical Press writer has suggested that there are at least seven storms that most encounter at one time or another:  "illness, depression, moral dilemmas, poverty, tragedy, accidents and death."  Just mentioning these seven is tiring.  So there is a big difference in the sea storms that threatened or actually did in lives and those mentioned.  The storms we encounter usually bring us to prayer, just like the disciples in today's gospel.  In these storms we have come to rely upon the calming power of Jesus.  We have come to acknowledge him as God's ever-present care for us us.  If we are faithful to prayer and efforts at a strong, personal relationship with Jesus, we come to trust that he will indeed be with us to calm our seas.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

904:  Corpus Christi -- The Body and Blood of Jesus

Deacon Ed, Bishop Gonzalez, Fr. Peter
St John Vianney Parish, Prince Frederick, MD

In our lives the space between two planets looks like two or three inches.  But realistically the distance is measures in millions of miles!  We simply see space between the two planets.  In our personal lives we have a similar experience with a slight difference.  The distance between life's demands and life's dreams sometimes seems to have the same many miles between them.  The one big difference is this:  we know what is between demands and dreams:  a genuine spiritual hunger, a true longing for God's presence in our lives.

Today's celebration is another celebration of mystery.  The Eucharist is the bread and wine that become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  But how?  Why do some people not believe this mystery is real?  Many times when we cannot explain something to another or even ourselves, we tend to hide from it or to bury it somewhere in our reality.  Simple bread and a sip of wine:  sometimes we take them when given to us as though they were little more than some of the food we put on a platter in a deli.  What is it that is given to us?  What is it that we swallow?

The challenge to us today is this:  because the Eucharist is a mystery that I cannot dissect or diagram, do I just accept it, swallow it and then think little about what has just happened to me?  When I eat a cookie or drink a cold glass of lemonade, my body instantly tells me that something has just happened to it.  However, for many Catholics who receive the Eucharist does that moment tell them anything?  Do I return to my church seat and pull out the cell phone to see if I have missed any text messages or phone calls during the time it took me to receive Communion and return to my seat?  Do I immediately begin to think about what's next on my calendar since the time for Communion is a signal that we are in the home stretch for this liturgy and will be out of the church in just a few minutes?

If I believed that Jesus has become a part of my body in the last thirty or so seconds, do my heart and soul try telling me that something most unusual has happened to me?  Do I believe that Christ is within his temple of my body?

Receiving Communion and what anyone does for the several minutes after that moment should be a sign to each of us of the depth of my personal spirituality.  Yes, it should be that.  If there is little more than a quickly said personal prayer, then what is the significant of receiving Holy Communion?  Think of all the basics you may have taught you sons and/or daughters when they were preparing for their First Holy Communion.  Have you continued to stress those realities you or any parent tries to inculcate into the minds and hearts of the First Communicant?  If it seems to have lost its prominence, what happened?  Why is the extraordinary gift from the Father to us no longer extraordinary?  Why is it rarely taken as significant?

Some good questions, I believe.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Let me invite you to begin with an unusual "wake up" prayer this morning.  Today is the celebration of the birthday of John the Baptist.  It is a celebration of the greatest herald among us.  Don't clap too loud:  you might disturbed those still sleeping!!!  Created by young people in Europe where Catholicism has its challenges.  However, hold on throughout the presentation and the many photos that will lift your heart to God.  Watching the YouTube document, I found myself realizing what it is to be older, or in the second-half of my life.  I found myself looking beyond the immediate presentation to seeking to understand how strong the faith of the young people must be, the young people who put this presentation together.

The presentation also made me stop and consider this question:  "Just how would John the Baptist appear today were he to be found walking down the most major street in any one of our American cities?"  What would you expect to meet?  So many times of late I have heard these words or others similar:  "When is the Church going to get with it?"  Well, I think these young people have taken just seven words and made quite a production, quite a reflective moment, quite a proclamation at least for me as a viewer.  How I wish we had more of this kind of spirit in our "Church music" in this country, in this city where I live!  As the young man signing the lead said several times:  Come on Church!  Lets sing Church!  Bring life to our worship just as John brought life to the Old Testament texts the people knew or should have known!

I am asking myself, as I type,  this serious question:  Have I used the Sacraments I have received to be the herald of Jesus?  Has my life been an invitation to others to come to know Jesus?

And don't worry about the "Thanks You God" at the end.  The Baptist was also human:  don't forget that reality.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


The last two days have brought focus upon three outstanding men of faith and commitment to the Word of God.  As we saw, when life is lived in accord with God's will, there will always be sacrifices.  To me this should not be surprising.  Our personal "felt needs" are not always in line with God's will for us.

In today's selected Gospel reading we are made aware that the will of God is primary in a person's life.  Jesus speaks to his disciples about meeting God face-to-face, seeking admission to his kingdom.  Listen to the kinds of words spoken by someone on the day of judgement.  A variety of good deeds are put forward by Jesus.  He then makes it clear that there is simply one price for admission to the Kingdom of God: doing the will of the Father.

Build your life upon a strong foundation, upon rock not on sand.  All that Jesus has said, especially throughout the entire Sermon on the Mount, "these words of mine," these are the foundations God gives for life in the kingdom.

When you read these words, what do they speak to you?  Have you used the blueprints that Jesus has offered you for building your home, your life?  There is no life lived that does not encounter difficulties with Jesus' blueprints for life.  Yet, if a person continually brings to mind that God's will is not a straight jacket binding our freedoms, what will become real and a source of much peace, success and happiness is that we can build our lives with God.  Ours is the rewarding life if we but live God's will for us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another look at noble men:  John Fisher and Thomas More.  Men of England, saints of the Church.  An interesting reality for my family.  My mother's family come to the United States from Great Britain.  My grandfather was named John Fisher.  Somewhere here might be a family link but highly doubtful.  You might click on the YouTube insert at the bottom to play as background while you read the reflection.

Born just after the middle of the 15th century, Fisher, a priest who was eventually ordained a bishop.  His prominence came about through his austere living -- perhaps a noteworthy fact that priests and bishops might consider.  Likewise, Bishop Fisher was known not as a skilled administrator or extraordinary preacher.  Rather he was greatly admired as a true shepherd for the people of his diocese, Rochester (Not NY!!).  As a bishop, John Fisher did not step back from challenging the departures from Roman Catholic theology and dogma.  He, together with his saintly colleague honored on this day, Thomas More, was imprisoned for strong opposition to Henry the VIII's divorce from Catherine.  Seemingly the opposition to leadership in matters of religion carried with it very weighty penalties.

Fisher's saintly partner, Sir Thomas More, was a married man and father of several children.  Like Bishop Fisher, More wrote and spoke publicly in defense of the faith despite his position as royal chancellor.  He publicly opposed the Act of Succession which earned for him a place in a London prison.  All Englishmen and women were required to sign an oath of loyalty invalidating the Church's refusal to grant and a divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine.  The act was designed to refute the actions of any foreign power, as in this case the Pope.

Both men were beheaded for their strong opposition to the refusal reject the Pope's not granting a divorce to the King.

From Fisher and More we can learn much ... especially the courage to stand up for what the Church teaches especially when it happens to be concerned with serious matters of Church discipline.  It is interesting to consider what these great saints might do were they living in our world today.  Regardless of such a inquiery, let's end the reflection with a hymn that came from England.

Monday, June 20, 2011

TUESDAY -  St Aloysius Gonzaga

Just several blocks from the nation's capitol building are located contiguously to each other the parish of St. Aloysius and the Jesuit High School, Gonzaga.  This young man was  born in the 16th century.  He was the son of royalty.  "Castiglione" is his family name.  Aloysius is an Italian Jesuit saint.  He died at a youthful age of 23.

His family was recognized for its wealth and power.  His father wanted Aloysius to follow in his princely footsteps and ultimately to become a marquis like himself.  The father sent his son to be trained in the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco de' Medici.  From there he moved to Madrid where he served in the Court of Philip II.

But there was a yearning in his heart that would not abate.  He felt the calling to be a priest.  Ignatius Loyola was his inspiration.  Consequently "Luigi," as he was called, desired nothing more than to walk in the steps of Ignatius and the other early Jesuits.  Shortly thereafter Aloysius was accepted into the Society of Jesus.  His Jesuit vocation was not to last all that long.  Luigi also felt called to help the poor and needy of his time.  His early years in the Jesuits happened to be at the same time as the Plague that was devastating so much of western Europe.  Because there were sick and dying men, women and children, this son of Gonzaga secured permission to work the streets, helping the sick and dying.  As a result of this, Luigi himself became a victim of the dreaded disease.

Luigi was given spiritual direction by another well-know Jesuit of the early years of the Society:  Father Robert Bellarmine whom we have come to know as St. Robert Bellarmine.

My reason for taking the time to put some history around the person is this:  Aloysius was declared to be the universal patron of youth by Pope Benedict XIII.  Many of you may not be the parent of a young man but you may have grandsons or nephew or neighborhood boys who you sense would be a great help to our Church as a priest, even, perhaps, as a Jesuit priest.  If you know such a young man, take the time to introduce him to Aloysius.  You may not have a life of this noble young man, but you can direct a young man to the Internet to find out about St Aloysius Gonzaga.  You will have done that young man a terrific service should he follow you up on this suggestion you have offered him.  We can remember these words of the saint.
It is better to be a child of God than king of the universe.

NB  This is the 900th posting for Prayer on the Hill that is added to its predecessor where there were 852 postings.  Together the total is 1751 postings or 4.97 years of blogs that demand about 1 hour and 45 minutes for each posting.  That equals 183,855 minutes to bring us where we are.  That many minutes equals 3,064.25 hours! 

"Stop judging...." strong words from Jesus in today's first reading.  Why did Jesus go after the scribes and Pharisees?  Simple ... These prominent figures in the community had taken to themselves the role of playing God!

How easy it is to point the finger at others!  Being judgemental seems to have become a notable characteristic of many people we encounter today especially TV pundits.  And, unfortunately, that same spirit seems to have become a part and parcel of the baggage many carry with them today.  Hypocrisy also is one of the realities that we see in today's society.  How many we know who put on a mask that we known as a "better than thou" attitude!

So, the challenge to ALL of us today is to be most Jesus-like and to forgive those whose transgressions may have offended us.  Forgiveness is indeed a BIG PILL but it seemt that if we want the forgiveness of the Father, it is one that we have to swallow.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Again we confront genuine, there's-nothing-like-it mystery in our Church.  The reality of the Holy Trinity!  A power-packed mystery:  engaging not just God but God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  It's easy to understand that there are three persons in this God ... but then there is that phrase "the one God."  It is something like God has pitched us a curve ball.  It crosses home plate in exact center but so fast we cannot even begin to say "well .... it looked like... ugh .... well it sure went passed me so fast I cannot even begin to tell what it is."  This is the one mystery that the greatest minds cannot solve ... and they never will be able to solve it.  Let's simply say "it's not in the books for human minds to understand divine mysteries."  No matter how purposefully and carefully we might pray on this mystery, regardless how often we turn to great spiritual writings or Church teachings, we are not going to solve this spiritual Sudoko challenge.

Sometimes we try to develop a simple "well it is like or something like ..... well, like this."  There is me or is it there is I.  There is none other than me driving this thinking process at the moment as you read.  There is at the same time the reflective thought taking place in my mind and heart.  But I cannot draw a picture of what is going on in those two powerful parts of how God made me.  Even an MRI or a Cat Scan cannot depict for you or for me what is going on.  But there is a process happening that is putting these words on my computer screen.  So ... me, process, reflection.  But now you are reading with your eyes the words I write, the product of my mind and heart.  You may understand most of what I write but then you just might not fully understand all that I am thinking.  Two people, using the same language but not achieving a duplication  of one thought.  Yet what I write I do so to help you (and me as well).  I hope you can draw ever closer the God who created each of us.  I also want to draw you closer to the mystery of the Trinity.  I do this not to help you solve the puzzle of the Trinity that is beyond Sudoko proportions.

Now if this reflection does not help you understand this mystery, I have succeeded.  We just cannot achieve that.  If anything, this exercise can, hopefully, help you realize that we have a God who is at the same time three persons but not three Gods and we cannot solve that mystery.  But we can pray to God, our Creator as well as to God our Father, to God the Son and to God the Holy Spirit.  A bountiful mystery when you stop to think about it:  three in one!!!  In all seriousness, I do hope this posting is something of a mind and heart opener for you.  Happy Trinity Sunday fellow travelers.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


A Modern St Paul?

The first reading for today's liturgy is almost laughable.  Paul is putting this account forward as his CV (Curriculum Vitae)!  If you had published a job opening and received this resume or one that would sound similar today, how quickly would you show it to others you work with?  You and your colleagues would, most likely, consider the application either a joke or the attempt of a job seeker who knew nothing about all that Job Hunters would teach.

Yet, there is in such a presentation a very individualized presentation of one man's road to .... are you ready?? ... to success!  You might say to me, "You are joking, aren't you?"  Well, to be very honest, I am NOT joking.  Here are some interesting historical facts:  Nelson Mandela secretly worked on his autobiography for 27 years while a prisioner.  Sir Walter Raleigh put together a history of the world while he was imprisioned.  Amd where did Martin Luther translate the Bible?  In castle-confinement.  Winston Churchill's insight:  "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; and optimist sees the opportunity in every difficult." Each of these noteworthy people was strong enough to overcome what the world would judge to be failure.  Again, Churchill, "Success is going from failure to failure without losing our enthusiasm."  For you who are baseball fans:  we all know that the great Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs.  Did you know how many times he struck out?  300?  400?  500?  600? 700? 714 times!!!!
Failures are but the seed-ground for successes, for blessings.  Usually a failure is a painful but wonderful learning experience.  Lewis Timberlake:  "Failing doesn't mean God has abandoned me; it just means I must obediently seek his will....  In other words, people can get deeply discouraged.  But filled with God's power and fueled by God's presence, you can hang in, hold on --- and win!

I write these words because I am sure there are some who have just completed a segment of their education, their preparation for a new mission it life ... but nobody's hiring!!!  The seeming failure of "cold calling", knocking on doors and being told "NO!", getting no responses from the super-professional resume that was sent to hundreds of businesses could easily put some distance between a person and God.  Yet, what we learn from the Sermon on the Mount -- the entire chapter long sermon -- is that there is no failure that is not a learning experience to better a person for the next effort.

A friend who has helped me in so many ways was looked upon by many as a sure failure while in high school.  Some courses were failures.  Yet determination is this man's middle name:  he took classes each summer so that he would graduate at the end of his Senior Year.  He did.  No college.  Right to the blue collar world where anyone with a sense for future success would have seen that this man would not be there long.  Through a couple of painful circumstances he came to see himself in a very different work.  Some simple discernment.  Some ten years later he is a very successful business man.  The usual story:  two cars, two homes, two this two that but most of all always learning from what he did not know.  Today he knows exactly what Saint Paul was saying in the words we heard heard/read today:  there nothing wrong with a failure or a mistake ... it is simply a stepping stone to a goal, to the completion of a mission.  So don't always judge the book by its cover.

Our relationship with God is no different.  He is going to allow you and me to make mistakes.  The issue is simple:  did we learn from those wrong pathways we walked?  Building a close relationship with God and being his "agent" in today's world is more than a destination, it is a journey, it is that "closer walk with Thee."  We will know it when our ship has run aground on sand or rocks more than a few times.  This is the moment when we realize that "knowing" God is not a momentary experience.  It is a never-ending awakening.


Pater Noster

The "rabbi," the teacher at his best is presented in Matthew 6: 7 - 15.    With 55 words Jesus puts before us what Paul encourages all who wish to follow Jesus do "without stopping."

Praying.  Perhaps we think too much about what prayer is supposed to be.  What steps do I take to become a 'good pray-er'?  How do I make a good prayer?   These questions and many others like them seem to plague the Christian communities.  Seemingly it is difficult to be told by the greatest prayer instructor that all we need is 55 words!  Not one additional word is need to earn the PN Degree.  It is the simplest and easiest course anyone can ever complete.

Jesus  does not ask us to memorize complex formulae.  He does not tell us we have to learn a "foreign" language.  His course does not require classes or text books as most understand them to be.  He would surely recommend one "text book" if it is easily had:  The Bible.  It is a "vade mecum" that can be found in almost every country of the world and in many different version, even on the Internet.  All that is required in his course is to be able to learn 55 words.  55 words!  It is we human beings that make prayer so difficult.  We have learned from our earliest years that success often demands academic achievement.  Learning and more learning.  We put that same demand on our relationship with God and learning how to pray.

The real challenge of prayer is simply this:  Do I believe?  Do I have the courage and strength to accept the teaching of Praying 101?  Do I trust that Professor Jesus has put before me the simplest text to earn the most rewarding and satisfying advanced degree in 55 simple words and thoughts?  Graduation and the awarding of the degree happen every day when Christians truly believe in this one prayer is God and all his goodness to us.  All we have to do is our homework each day:  lift up mind and heart to the Creator with 55 words!  There is no other "degree" more rewarding that the PN Degree (The Pater Noster Degree).  Congratulations, graduates!  Imagine, you really don't have to master a required reading list ... this morning the Amazon listings for books on prayer total 64,271.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I have been asked to accompany a cousin on a mercy mission for the next two days.  Consequently I will not be posting on this site.  HOWEVER:  You can find a substantive website that you might find useful.  I know that this site has been good for a number of years.

Pray for me for two purposes:  (1) that my mercy mission will be successful; and (2) that I drive a terrible summer cold out of my head and chest asap.  I don't like being a patient!!!!

Click onto this the site to link up to the Collaborative Ministry program ... a spirituality formation division at the might want to visit:

Today the Church honors a Portuguese priest, a Franciscan friar, St Anthony of Padua.  A powerful preacher, Anthony achieved this skill after spending some time living in a hermitage.  There he deepened his own spirituality.  Little did he realize how God's plan had brought him to Padua for a specific purpose.  He was content in his hermitage but after St. Francis of Assisi died, Anthony was assigned to Padua.  His time in Padua were a witness to his noteworthy impact upon the people of Padua earned by his preaching.  His life story is very interesting and worthy of a read.

In today's first reading St Paul writes in words that are a reflection of Anthony's life.  As you read these words, select the circumstances that might apply to you.

We are called impostors, yet we are truthful;
no bodies who in fact are well known;
dead, yet here we are always rejoicing;
poor, yet we enrich many.
We seem to have nothing, yet every this is ours!
2 Cor 6: 8-10


Saturday, June 11, 2011


We celebrate this power-packed moment in our Church's life every year!  This is the day the Lord has made for us, let us rejoice and be glad!  Easily, perhaps and unfortunately, we often fail to allow ourselves to experience that power, that gift of God to each other.  Today, I believe that we, as a nation, we as citizens of this great country, now more than in recent memory, we need to have the HOLY SPIRIT in our lives.  For all of us it is a matter of life and breath.

The words of Ezekiel about those "dry bones" remind me of the millions of broken dreams and shattered lives and families that exist from the far northeastern corner to the far southwestern corner of this great nation.  Our nation, our families and/or our friends have been delivered a financial death that seems to continue dying anew every day, work or month.  So many seemingly languish without any hope.  This Pentecost reminds me that as a people and as individuals we need to recognize the power, the healing remedy God has given us in the Holy Spirit.  Again, it is a matter of life and breath.

Many remember World War II.  Some may have served in the armed forces at that time.  Prison camps and other atrocities were spread from Germany to other European countries ... even to the Philippines in Asia.  A victim of prison during that war was an Austrian psychiatrist, Dr. Victor Frankl.  He wrote a book following his release from the prison camp:  Man's Search for Meaning.  Many prisoners who survived the painful experiences were doomed because they lost their belief in the future.  It was this loss of hope that undermined their spiritual hold on life itself.  There is not doubt that today's life experiences among many whose lives have been shattered by the national financial disaster have turned many into  those "dry bones" that Ezekiel described in his Old Testament writing.  Today we need to revisit with the Holy Spirit!  For us it is a matter of life and breath.

Almost 100 years ago a 38 year old man had to put a sign in the front window of his shop that read "CLOSED - CANNOT REOPEN!  That was the front wave of the Great Depression.  However, because his wife sat and worked out a life plan with him they were able to make a real plan for their future.  23 years later this man was introduced to the world as President of the United States.  President Harry S. Truman was the man.  Through wife Bess's strength Harry Truman experienced the life and breath of the Holy Spirit.

Each day Harry Truman would read a particular verse from the writings of the prophet Jeremiah:  chapter 29, verse 11.  The prophet's words conveyed to the Jewish people in the Babylonian Captivity the words Yahweh wanted them to hear:  "For I know well the plan I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your good, not for disaster, plans to give you a future full of hope."  These words are good for many of us today.

Today's feast stands before all as a reminder that the Holy Spirit is not dead!  Far from that:  The Holy Spirit is very much alive IF we allow his presence to invigorate our lives, as well as the lives of families and communities.  It is so easy to join the choirs of those who can only sing hymns of woe and despair.  There is no life in that crowd!  They are only new piles of "dry bones" that will not yield to revitalization and new life.  Today God wants you to come alive with the Holy Spirit. There is a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that comes to mind:  "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

My reader friends during this Holy Spirit weekend of Pentecost I ask you to take on the intention to make it your mission, your business, to let the Holy Spirit loose in your life.  Bring him to your families and your friends.  Pray to the Holy Spirit to fill your life with his gifts so that you can be the life and breath of the Holy Spirit to transform your life and the lives of your families and communities.  God is renewing this gift in your lives this weekend for that reason.  And yes, it may be frightening.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa, expressed her own fears when she realized what power the Holy Spirit had given her to change not just her life but the world for the poor and the dying.  Letting the Holy Spirit take over will  change your life.  Blessed Teresa wrote these powerful words:  "I know God will never give me anything I can't handle.  I just wish He didn't trust me with so much."

My friends I am offering you the chance of a lifetime today:  the gifts of the Holy Spirit if you just open your heart and mind to him.  Go for it!

Friday, June 10, 2011


Today's gospel is a lesson about the word "love."  In contemporary culture this word is tossed around like an ingredient in the salad of life.  Jesus' conversation with Peter is the model we need to consider.  In the gospel scene Jesus is asking Peter for genuine, self-giving love, the kind of love that Jesus would be giving to all of us from the Calvary tree.  It is the love that is shared between marriage partners or life-long friends.  Jesus is asking Peter for heart-felt, life-giving love (commitment?) but Peter's response to the question "Do you love me, Peter?" is more like "Yes, I am your friend."  Jesus, knowing Peter was not "getting it," asks a second time.  The apostle's response, with a little frustration, is "Yes, you are my friend."  Still did not understand!  Jesus does not give up.  He asks a third time but most likely his question was "Peter are you my friend?"  We hear Peter respond the same way again, "Yes, you know I am your friend.  Then Jesus, knowing that Peter needs emotional and spiritual growth, accepts Peter as he is.  He knows that Peter will come to know what rue love is with the test of time.  

Jesus is above any hurt or disappointment.   He entrusts to Peter the care of the flock:  "Feed my sheep." It is the same message the Jesus gives to each of us regardless of the number of times we have had to come back to Jesus because we have sinned.  Jesus never turns away from us, from any sinner.  The heart that was pierced out of love will never turn away from his flock nor fail anyone who has not responded to God's inviting love.  That same heart brings forgiveness and a renewed invitation to "follow me."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


In today's gospel reading we continue Jesus' prayer that is spread throught out the John 17.  It is truly a challenging text that confronts us -- at least me -- when he prays that we "will be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you."  It is evident, so the scripture scholars believe, that at this point Jesus "suddenly" starts talking, praying, beyond those that are with him on this Thursday evening.  We are presented with the relationship of the Father with the Son and then the relationship between the members of the community (you, me and all the others).  We have to see beyond human solidarity.  John sees these two relationships as a revelation of the Father with Jesus.  It is Jesus who brings the disciples into a communal relationship with God.  Surely we are dealing with mystery.  But we do see that the relationship between Jesus and the Father is based on one reality:  their mutual love for one another.

Perhaps you who are parents may have an easier time grasping these words of Jesus.    Don you say or pray in a similar way:  "Father, I pray that my daughter/son may always be one with us, his parents, and his siblings.  And don't all of us pray that we are one with God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit?  Is there not something is this reality, this relationship, similar to the relationship of the Father and the Son?  Doesn't it have to do with mutual love, the love between parents and children, between children and parents as well as between children and others in the world?

These words of Jesus in prayer truly are words that call us to pause and listen to the Holy Spirit who speaks to us in prayer.


As we prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of Pentecost, the following words of Blessed Mother Teresa might well serve some prayerful consideration of the result of our Confirmation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us by a loving and caring God.

I know God will never give me anythings I can't handle.
I just wish He didn't trust me so much.

And if these words are not enough to make you prayerfully think about the consequences of the Sacrament of Confirmation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, let these world from Proverbs: 29:18 settle in your heart and mind early this morning.

Where there is no vision, the people perish.

Lastly let the words of the Rev. Robert Schuller of the famous Crystal Cathedral give you a purpose for this morning.

The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and
achieves the impossible.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Often times we hear words that speak of Jesus and his prayer:  his time in the desert, alone on a hillside or teaching his disciples.  Usually, though,  he is alone, unobserved.  Unfortunately we just take his prayer time as very private.  Why not?  He is Jesus, Son of God!  We might feel we have no right to break into his privacy.  Yet, because Jesus calls us to prayer in our lives for ourselves and others, I believe we should inquire about Jesus' prayer.  He did not have rosary beads!  There we no churches as we know them today, just the big temple in Jerusalem.

So how did Jesus pray?  St. John's gospel, Chapter 17, provides an answer.  This particular chapter is Jesus' prayer that falls from his lips on Holy Thursday evening.  He is praying for his closest associates, the apostles -- and all the disciples from that day forward; for them and for all of us.

So what was his prayer?  Are you surprised to learn that he prayed that you and I would come to "know" God.  He did not mean that we should know him as scholars "know about" him.   It is not book learning he sought for us in his prayer.  He prayed that we would "know" God in a very personal way.

This is a practice we might evaluate.  How personal, how intimate is the prayer relationship I maintain with God?  I truly believe our prayer will never be "easy" if it is little less than repetitious prayer.  One of the painful realities of mental illnesses, as we experience it in the lives of those with Alzheimer's Disease, is the incessant repetition of certain sentences or questions.  So, did you ever wonder what God must think if we rattle on with the same prayers, the same impersonal expressions that we use just to make up time?  I cannot imagine how tedious it must be to be on the receiving end!!!  This does give us something to consider in our prayer lives?

"I have conquered the world."
(Jn 16:33)

Association with anyone who could speak those five words should be a cause for pause.  Either you have a sense the speaker is hallucinating or, for one reason or another, you have a sense it just might be true despite any troubles you might have or have had.

From the experience you have while  reading or hearing the words of Jesus, there have to have been moments when you have felt encouraged.  Surely the most powerful moments in his life are his death and resurrection.  Jesus is the only human being to be brutally brought to death and then risen from that death -- on his own, we might say.  Indeed Jesus has conquered the world.  Yet it is a victory that armies can never accomplish.  Fr. Fleming Rutledge in The Undoing of Death: "It is a way of power in humility, power in sacrifice, power in non-violence, power in self-emptying love."

When you encounter challenges that seem insurmountable, where do you turn?  Do you feel the need to conquer on your own?  Or, as countless winners have done, do you turn to the one who has told you "I have conquered the world"?  Do you believe him?  I ask again: Do you believe Jesus?  Do you believe in him and his proclamation "that is at odds with everything the world teaches"(Rutledge)?  Do you turn to the "power of self-emptying love"?

Saturday, June 4, 2011


When you read or hear the word "Ascension", no doubt several images might come to mind.  Surely there must be something like Jesus the Space Shuttle "taking off" from a place in Israel.  A few might think about Jesus himself with his mind on "taking" his place next to the Father again in heaven.  There is also the thought of Jesus leaving without his disciples while at the same time assuring that he will return.  Whatever imagery might come to your mind there is one constant theme we might consider because I believe most do not see it in the Ascension.  What is it?  Jesus TRUSTS the disciples and us.  Trust, trust, trust:  this is what it's all about "Alfie."

We are called upon with this feast day, whether on Thursday or Sunday, and when it actually happened that first and only time, to understand that the Ascension assures all of us that GOD DOES TRUST US.

In the first reading St Luke writes that he sees the Church is entering a new time.  Of course Jesus did not return to the Father with any sense that we could not be trusted.  He said it time and again during the last meal with the disciples, according to St. John, and on occasions when he made his cameo appearances after the Resurrection.

In the words of Matthew's gospel there is no description or reference to the Ascension but there is the inference that Jesus who had returned to the Father believed that the disciples and their successors would certainly continue Jesus' presence in the future days.

Lastly, consider all that has happened within the Church since the days of the Second Vatican Council:  we have become a Church that places great importance on the role of men and women in the operations of the Church.  Perhaps for some not enough has happened ... but just look at how long it took to get to Vatican II and all it called the Church to do in the new world.

The big question, however, is this:  do you trust yourself to fulfill the empowerment the Ascension gave to you?

The picture, I know, is making you wonder.  Just something to look at as you consider how God has entrusted something so special to you.  The picture is that of the top side of a large turtle or tortoise!  It might be a reminder to all of us to come out of our shells into the world of complete trust in the Lord who has entrusted so much to each of us.

Please take time to read the posting that appears beneath this Ascension reflection.

Why the Absence for the Last Two Days?


The last three day were out of the ordinary for this blogger.  Hence the posting-waves have not been rolling to your shores.  Your truly had two major celebrations, as he does every year, on June 2nd and 3rd.  This year is a special year for me.  On June 2, 1941 at 12:18 AM Milton and Margaret Jordan became parents for the first time.  On Capitol Hill in what we now refer to as the Old Providence Hospital yours truly came into the world.  His mission was underway.  So a brother and sister decided the "old man" needed a birthday party.  For sure 70 only comes once in the life of those who make it that far.  As I think back on that day and the days leading to it, I realize now that I was really excited about all that was happening and could not concentrate on much.  It was like a child anticipating Christmas morning.  And the celebration continues even tomorrow as a group of friends from the parish Cardinal McCarrick entrusted to me some years ago are gathering for dinner with me.  So that is a part of what was going on.
At the same time there was a deeper, truly spiritual celebration going on within my heart: on June 3rd I celebrated the Mass for a Priest's Ordination anniversary.  It is the only Mass that a priest celebrates for himself with public prayers etc. and, of course, just once a year.  That was a day that afforded me some quiet time to calm down from the prior evenings celebration which I do not think I will ever forget.

So, friends, the sanity, the calmness is returning.  The excitement was such that I really found it very difficult to pray on my birthday and the day before.  So many friends were reminding me of the big seven zero.  I really began to think about what this meant to me.  Of course the reality made me think of the future and wonder how long it would be before the Lord would call me home to be with him in heaven.  Furthermore I was thinking for the last several days what does my God expect of me now at this stage of my life?  What does a retired priest do who feel like 70 some days but whose mind and heart somehow become stuck at 45 years old?
These are some of the thoughts that were racing through my head and heart these last few days ... which made it impossible for me to sit and compose myself.  God was just stirring the pot with too much excitement.  So, now, even though there is one party to finish off the celebrations, I am back to serving you through this medium.  So that is the reason for the happy face just above:  what a day celebrating the reality that I had been on this earth for 70 years and was not going strong into year 71!!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


In the gospel of St John, we have the opportunity to experience the expression of divine thoughts that are peculiar to a man who had a unique relationship with Jesus as well as his mother, Mary.  Today's reading presents words from Jesus spoken on the evening before he would suffer the torture of his walk to Calvary Hill and the murderous crucifixion.  His words are an encouragement to the disciples as he attempts to prepare them for the unusual events they will confront within the next 24 hours of their lives.

What we might consider today is that no matter what we are called up to endure, we can find in the words of Jesus the blessed assurance that the Father is a loving God, a caring God.  Who is there among us today who does not encounter challenges that raise doubts in the mind about the care of our God for us when we feel that this God of ours is absent.

Today let the Lord Jesus talk with you in your prayer.  Ask him to share with you how his graces are the power behind all that we can possibly do.  Ask him to talk with you about how he sees the best way for him to help you.  This is the way to  understand prayer.  It is truly an opening of one's heart to the love and care of the Lord.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Let me offer you a place to sit and reflect for a few moments.  Today's gospel reading (Jn 16:12-15) does require some thinking from us.  So, a quiet place, a peace-filled sight may be of some assistance to those who read these words today. (Had to stop posting here to fill in for a priest at the altar.)

Jesus continues to foretell about a gift from God to the disciples, to all of us:  the presence of the Holy Spirit within our lives, we who are temples of the Holy Spirit.  The tome from Jesus' words, however, is somewhat ominous:  "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now."

We have heard this sentence many times although we may not recall it easily.  What is it that Jesus is "foretelling" or "predicting"?  These thoughts may bring some to think of the Holy Spirit as the great prognosticator.  Some may perceive him as a God with a crystal ball or some tea leaves!!!  None of this, of course, is truth.  Scripture scholars refute this to a person.

What the Holy Spirit does is this:  "he will guide you to all truth."  We should understand this "truth" as belief in Jesus as the sole revelation of God and the one who speaks the words of God" (New Jerusalem Biblical Commentary, p 977).  The Holy Spirit's mission according to make "what Jesus said or did intelligible often by associating it with Scripture"(ibid.).  In simpler terms we should understand the Spirit as a guide.  Through the powers entrusted to him, we will be guided to understand more about Jesus.  The Spirit will teach that Jesus is "the fulfillment of everything that had been promised in the Scriptures" (ibid.).  His sole role is not to interpret a crystal ball or to read tea leaves, he infuses us with the knowledge "to glorify Jesus and to take what the Father has given Jesus and declare it to the disciples" (ibid.).  See the "team spirit" or the Trinitarian effort!  This is the great feast day we celebrate on June 12th this year, Pentecost Sunday, just 12 days ahead.  Let us begin again to renew our hearts, to understand the importance of our awareness of the gift from the Father. 

(Again, pardon the late delivery ... duty called.)

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