Sunday, March 26, 2017


This is the question Jesus asked his disciples. Perhaps it's one we ponder as well. 
Lent is a perfect time to reflect on who we are, especially as we get close to the end.

Generally on our Lenten journey we search more intimately for God, especially through our spiritual exercises of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. And we may begin to realize that the search is also for our truest self. 

We may be as blind about ourselves as we are about God.

Who are we? The bible tells us: every person is the image of God. Thus, we are who we image God to be. 

To most fully know God and ourselves, we need to look within ourselves.

Now, the search may begin within the depth of our heart, but it doesn't end there.

Years ago, an artist friend painted a portrait of me – as an unfinished puzzle…to indicate that I am still a work in progress…and that I have been and continue to be shaped by those around me. We’re all like that. We are all a masterpiece in the making...shaped, in part, by those around us...and by God.

Today's gospel about the man born blind is a graced opportunity to open our eyes and see more clearly who we are, perhaps to affirm our blindness to the unfinished masterpiece we are meant to be, to discover the role others may play in shaping us, and most especially to see the hand of God at work in us.

Just as Jesus gives the blind man the gift of sight, we, too, might sigh, Lord, I want to see. I want to see myself for who I really am. I want to see you.

After today's noon Mass, we will have a rehearsal by those who will dramatize the Live Stations of the Cross on Good Friday: Were You There? Some of our parishioners will take the role of 14 characters who were there. I have asked them to not memorize their roles but to get into the shoes of the person they portray and then bring that role to life.

The live stations are very moving and inspiring, but even more, it is amazing how much we learn about ourselves from the testimonies of those who were there.

Imagine you are invited to play a direct role in a stage performance of The Miracle at the Pool of Siloam. The cast of characters in today’s story gives us a range of choices as to whose shoes we want to put ourselves into. Actually, we should get into the shoes of each of them and see what we can learn about ourselves.

First there is the blind man himself. We can easily put ourselves in his shoes. He’s a natural, because his experience resembles our baptism. He was “anointed” by Jesus (with mud instead of oil), and then sent to a pool of water where his eyes were opened.

At our baptism we were washed with the gift of faith, which enabled us to see the Light. But the man born blind had more to learn, and so do we. He gradually moved from a superficial relationship with Jesus to one that was much more profound. I need to ask if I am moving in that direction. Am I moving closer and closer to Jesus, or just sitting still?

Next there are the Pharisees. We really don’t want to put ourselves in their shoes, but to be honest with ourselves, we have to do it. They think they see it all, and they’re ready to go after anyone who doesn’t see it their way. Not that we’re always like them, but sometimes we are. It doesn’t matter whether we see ourselves as liberal, moderate, or conservative. We’ve all got our blind spots. 

There are also the parents of the man born blind. They’re afraid, and they don’t want to get involved. For them it’s simply: Don’t ask us. Ask him. He can speak for himself.  

We do some of that too – we don’t want to get involved if it means we might have to pay a price.

Then we have the friends and acquaintances of the man born blind. In a way, they come off best of all. They ask him what happened, and they simply listen. They’re open, willing to learn.

I invite you to take some time now and this week, and put yourself in the shoes of each of these persons: the blind man, the Pharisees, the parents, and the friends. Don’t put somebody else there – we’d all be tempted to do that. Put yourself in the shoes of each, talk it over honestly with the Lord, and see how they help or block you from being your truest self.

Speaking of our Lord, let's not forget that Jesus, of course, is also in the scene. I don't think you really need me to remind you that you, too, are a beloved daughter or son of God. Yet while we believe it, we may have our reservations. Are we really like Jesus? Is there a part of him in us? 

Lest you have any doubt about that, I'd like you repeat after me:

  I am the unique, unrepeatable manifestation of God.

So as you take time to put yourself in the shoes of those other four characters mentioned above, put yourself also in the shoes of Jesus. And talk that over with our Lord as well.

And may it lead you to say, I was blind but now I see!

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Give me a drink. Twice in the gospels Jesus says, I thirst

Here in the encounter with the Samaritan woman and on the Cross.

Perhaps you know that the number one killer of the poor around the world is lack of water.

But Jesus was thirsty for more than water. He was thirsty for her love…and ours. 

Imagine someone you love saying to you, I thirst for your love. How would you feel? Imagine our Lord saying to you, I thirst for your love. He does.

Our Lord continues to be thirsty for our love, and thirsty in tens of thousands of poor sisters and brothers who die from thirst…and hunger…and violence each day. He thirsts to quench their thirst for life through you and me.

In today’s gospel we see Jesus going to Samaria…going to the ends of the earth, as it were, to make sure he quenches everyone’s thirst even a Samaritan woman and sinner.

The fact that the encounter is with a woman, a Samaritan and a sinner speaks volumes of God’s desire to quench the thirst of all. 

Two thousand years ago for a Jewish man to speak alone to a female stranger, let alone an enemy (as Samaritans were), and a sinner was not only unthinkable, it was taboo.

The woman was transformed…and became a transforming agent! That's what happens when we embrace another - especially an enemy - with unconditional love.

Jesus is saying to us that nothing will stop him from embracing you and me with love, from quenching our thirst – not our sins, our alienation, our religion or lack thereof – nothing, absolutely nothing.

We’re half-way through Lent...our annual 40-day journey of faith in the ‘desert’ of our life to more fully acknowledge our thirst…and God’s. 

What are we thirst for? As God thirsts for us and our love, we thirst for God...and there is a thirst in each of us to love and be loved. 

Have you ever felt really thirsty...dying for a glass of water...praying even for just a sip of water?

I remember hiking in the valley of the Grand Canyon, and as the sun beat down on me, the ever-present thought was survival...having water...finding water to stay alive.

We don't usually take hikes in the desert. And water is generally so abundant that we never get that thirsty. We never need to worry about finding a glass of water. We simply take it for granted.

Even as we strive to be good and faithful, we might also be oblivious and numb to our thirst for God. We may not give it a second thought.

Before we can seek the water to quench our thirst, we must first be aware of our thirst. And when we are, we discover that...the water that quenches our thirst is love. Love is both our thirst and our water.

Our Lenten "desert" journey is first of all about becoming evermore aware of our thirst, and God's desire to quench it. And we also have to open our eyes to see the well before we can drink from it. We have to want to see the presence and love of God with that God can quench our thirst. 

Isn't that why we're here? That's what the Eucharist is all about. The altar, my sisters and brothers, the altar is the well where we encounter Christ...who quenches our thirst...and we quench his.

A lifetime ago, studying philosophy at Loyola University in Chicago, I took a course on The Study of Religions. The main focus was to see how each religion filled the well of its faithful…quenched their thirst.

To gain better understanding, we were placed in teams of six, each team assigned to prepare a 15-minute skit on the essence of the religion assigned to it, to capture how that religion quenches the thirst of its faithful.

I was part of "the Catholic team”. We chose to re-enact the Eucharistic prayer…the consecration of bread and reflect the source and summit of our faith, and how it fills our well and quenches our thirst. We used hosts and grape juice.

Chosen to play the part of the priest, I borrowed some vestments, a paten and chalice, a Roman Missal, and proceeded with the prayer, after which I invited all to come forward and receive.

All but one came – an elderly African-American woman. I said to her, Don’t be afraid. It’s just wafers and grape juice.

Her refusal was adamant. She said, Nooooo! It looked too real. Honey, I don’t want to be changed!

In a few minutes we’ll celebrate the real consecration. It won’t be play-acting. We will come and receive…to see and to be one with Christ.

But will our well be filled? Will our thirst be quenched?

Will we be transformed...and become a transforming agent?

Sunday, March 12, 2017


What did God have in mind in creating me? Why am I here?

I hear these questions often as I visit the elderly and infirm; those in pain and suffering. Why is there pain and suffering?

I won’t pretend to have the answer. Perhaps, we are faced with difficult challenges to discover inner strength, gifts we had no clue we had, empathy for others who have their own challenges. 

I see this every time I minister at Gabriel House where patients await organ transplants and find love and support from others undergoing similar situations. And in the sharing, each is made stronger and life is not only bearable but profoundly more fulfilling.

Perhaps because in our torment, it is we who minister to others and bring out the best in them through their concern and prayers for us.

Perhaps, it's to find strength of conviction and hope in a God who reveals self in the wonder of creation all around us. And to discern what part we play in God's magnificent plan for our universe.

What is God's plan for us and our universe?

We hear it in the first reading. It's a short one. Let's listen to it again. (Notice, by the way, that the word bless is used five times in this short passage.)

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.  All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.

That's what God has in mind in creating us.  God's plan is to bless us.

Like Abraham, we are called to have a part in God's great plan. Perhaps it may seem to us that we have a small part...but we've been called to have a part in something that is magnificent...something that affects the whole human race, the whole universe.

God has called us to be partners in the great work of making the universe a heaven on earth!  How?

Simple, by being aware of our blessings (even as we bear our crosses...there are always blessings, if we look). And by being a blessing to others...sowing seeds of compassion and good deeds.

Last Sunday we had our family catechesis, which began with the children's choir singing This little light of mine.

             This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...
            Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine…
            Jesus gave it to me, I’m gonna let it shine…
                        let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

When we let our light shine, we transform the world! That’s what the transfiguration is all about.

Not just to affirm the radiance of God in Jesus, but for us to be radiant as well with the light of Christ.

We first received this light at our baptism, and we’re going to have one today. Right after this homily, Bree Anna will become our newest member of the Church. She’ll receive a candle…the Light of Christ given to us to burn brightly in this darkened world of sin and temptation, suffering and hopelessness.

Each Easter Vigil we renew our commitment to do so. We begin Mass by blessing the fire outside, and then enter our unlit church (symbolic of our darkened world) with the Paschal Candle – The Light of Christ – from which we light our individual tapers, which spreads across the church like a wildfire, so that it is transformed, luminous, even without overhead lights.

We were created to be light bearers, messengers of hope, catalysts of goodness, lighting a fire in one another to make the radiance of God present in our world.

The Letter to Timothy, our second reading, speaks of God’s design which was formulated before time began. We’re made to realize that this has always been God’s plan.

And in the gospel’s transfiguration, with a bright cloud overshadowing the mountain, Jesus gives us a glimpse of God’s plan for us and our universe.

The whole human race will be transfigured. All creation will be transformed, luminous with the presence of God.

After I proclaimed this gospel to the children, I asked them what they heard. They said they heard the voice of God speaking to Peter, James and John…just as the voice of God has spoken to us today.

It was the presence of God that made that mountain holy. And it is the presence of God that makes this space sacred.

I asked the children and their parents to stand because we were going to sing a song. I’m going to ask you to stand to sign that song with me. I’ll sing each verse first and you follow:

    This is holy ground. We’re standing on holy ground.
    For God is here and where God is, is holy.

I said to the children that wherever we are is holy ground because God is with us wherever we are.

At times what blinds us from seeing God and our own transfiguring light is the struggles in our life.

Do you find yourself sometimes getting down on the human race – all the problems in our world, and the things that some people do? Do you find yourself sometimes getting down on yourself? Have these first 10 days of Lent been, perhaps, more or less a failure? Take heart!

God’s grace is at work in our world. God’s grace is at work in us. We have God’s own life within us. If it were visible to the naked eye, we’d see a lustrous cloud enveloping us – God’s presence.

That’s not mere imagery. We really are, right now, surrounded by God’s love. And we have God’s life within us. If it could be seen, our face would shine. Our whole self would shine. So take heart. 

The transfiguration is a sign of the stuff we’re made of…God’s very self.

How great is that?! What we can do to remember this ?

The sign of the cross we received on Ash Wednesday says it all. It's not only a sign of our faith, but that we are blessed with God, who is with us and loves us. Each time you see a cross let it be a reminder, and remind your loved ones. Say to your children, You are such a blessing to me! Imagine if they said that to you...imagine saying it to your spouse, and hearing it from them. You are such a blessing to me! 

You are...because God is with you and loves you. So take heart.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


All those trees in the garden are theirs for the asking except one. And Adam and Eve couldn’t avoid that one lousy tree. They couldn’t accept any limitations.

Like Adam and Eve, we, too, can be ungrateful for what God gives us. Ingratitude is the genesis of all our sins. Our fall was and is that we aren’t satisfied in what we have, and who we are. We want more. We want to be in total control.

We speak of “temptations” in the plural, but they all come down to one basic temptation: to be like God. We don’t want to take God’s place. We simply want to be like God. Which is to say, we’ve got problems with our status as human beings. It has too many limitations.

That’s the fundamental temptation we face. It sneaks up on us because we don’t put it in those stark terms – I want to be like God. We simply want to get around some of the things involved in being human. The core of being human is having to “die” – figuratively or literally. When we were in our mother’s womb, we didn’t want to leave – to die to the world within her womb, and be born into this world. No wonder we cried.

The temptation isn’t simply to try to be like God, but to have a false image of God. Let’s see what it’s like to be like God.

Perhaps we picture God as enjoying one long vacation. It’s the easy life. No worries. No problems. No troubles and tears. No waiting for anything. To be God is to be all-powerful, and we can use that power to get anything we want with a snap of our fingers. We just sit around and let all creation sing our praise.

But the God revealed to us in scripture is not that kind of God. Now the scripture uses metaphors – there’s no other way of talking about God. The image of God that comes through in scripture isn’t a God who is on one long vacation. Scripture tells of a God who is like a father or mother who worries about the children…a God who loves them, really loves them, and is sometimes hurt by their failure to love in return.

We really don’t know what it’s like to be God, but it isn’t necessarily one long vacation.

What we do know about this God is that God became a human being. God isn’t just paying us a visit. Jesus became one of us, and Jesus fully accepted his humanity, the human condition, showing us that sometimes one has to die to oneself in order to get to life.

Now isn’t that something? Here we are, constantly tempted to reject our status as human beings, and wanting to be like God…and here is God becoming a human being.

And Jesus really did become one of us, like us in all things but sin. He sure did, because what’s the first thing that happens when he begins his ministry? The devil comes and tempts him to get around the limitations of his human status.

The devil says: You don’t have to go through all this human stuff. You are the Son of God. So if you are the Son of God, change these stones to bread. If you’re hungry, eat! If you feel like it, fling yourself off the temple. You can do anything you want. Take over all the kingdoms of the world. You are the Son of God.

Jesus rejected the temptation. He stood strong as a full-fledged human being. He accepted all the limitations of space and time and power. Jesus said, Let God be God. It's enough to know that God is with me. I will take the human path to fullness of life.

The temptation is always there to be someone other than who we are. But as the holy rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, When I meet God in heaven, he will not ask me if I was the best Moses or the best David. He will ask if I was the best Abraham Joshua Heschel.

God knew that our human weakness was/is to try to be who we are not, so he sent us Jesus. Jesus taught us to see and to live fully who we are, saying to us:

You want to be like God? Well you are. You are God’s daughter, God’s son. You have God’s life within you. Let God’s life grow within you by living as God’s son, God’s daughter. It may seem to you sometimes that living that way is to die. But I’m telling you that this is the way you are born more fully into God’s life. Come follow me, and I’ll show you. Imitate me and you’ll be like God.

v  Don’t be greedy. Be lavish in giving your time and goods to others. Live the largesse of God.
v  Don’t be violent. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
v  Don’t be spiteful. Be merciful as your heavenly father is merciful.
v  Don’t be frightened. God is with you always, to the end of time.

Jesus didn’t just teach all this. He lived it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


A priest is saying his evening prayers as he strolls through the cemetery next to his church. Suddenly a thief pounces upon him with knife in hand and says, Your money or your life? The priest fishes through his pockets, realizes he has left his wallet home, and only finds a chocolate bar. He offers it to the thief, who responds, No thanks, Father, I gave up chocolates for Lent.

Ash Wednesday. Another Lent begins. How will this one be different?

Will we give up something out of tradition…or will it be something more?

This week there was a story about how the Jaguars are assessing their team. In the past, as with most teams, they looked at the 3 Ss – Size, Speed and Strength. 

But they have found that these are not enough. The players also need – MT – Mental Toughness.

Perhaps this may help give us a new perspective on Lent. Though professional football players are already very talented, they take time for training and exercise before the playing season begins in their quest for the Super Bowl, by striving to be the best players they can be, and by helping their teammates to be their best, as well.

We, too, already have holiness within us, but are given a special time of training and exercise - Lent - in our quest for resurrection with Christ, by being our very best...and by bringing out the best in our "teammates"  

The Church seeks to make of us the best team for Christ, through F A P – Fasting, Alms giving and Prayer.

But more than the mere practice of F A P, what the Church really wants is that we become Spiritually Tough, to bring out the best in us, and through us.

Jesus came to help us be Spiritually Tough (ST) be evermore aware of God's love and presence. Thus, alms giving is not about just helping someone in need. We don’t give alms to solve world poverty or to save another. That’s between God and them. We don't give alms to change others. We cannot change others…only ourselves. 

We give alms to another only secondarily because they are in need. We give alms because we are in need…of ST (Spiritual Toughness)...which leads to another St - sainthood - holiness - oneness with God. 

We give alms in secret, that is, the gift is between us and God. We give not only what we have but ourselves, from the heart, and God rewards us in the heart by indwelling within us…so that it will change us. Or better said, to help us be our truest self.

The same is true of prayer and fasting.

Lent is not simply a ritual or a discipline, but a desire and commitment to return to our truest selfAs Jesus said, The truth will set you free. 

There are many ways to do that. I would like to suggest one way, which may be a challenge for each of us. As a country, we are a team divided. While we each may have our "liberal" or "conservative" biases, the real challenge, whether about the world or ourselves, is to seek the truth. 

How best to get at the truth?  May I suggest during these forty days of Lent, in addition to your spiritual reflections and good deeds, if you get your truth from Fox that you also watch CNN. And vice-versa. I'm not trying to be political. Simply suggesting a way to build make us the best, peaceable team... for the good of our country and for our Lord.

Lastly, a final story. Some years back, Sarah Ferguson, was divorced from Prince Andrew. She lost her title and wealth, became depressed - her self-esteem was very low. She seemed lost, not sure how to move forward. 

She began to put on weight. Then Weight Watchers called to offer her a position as spokesperson for the company. But first she had to go through the program.

She did, and, in an interview which followed, stated: Weight Watchers is not about losing weight. Weight Watchers is about discovering and being your truest self. It is seeing and living who you truly are.

Lent is a time to discover and be our truest self; to see and live who we really are.