Sunday, April 30, 2017


He is alive! The disciples from Emmaus had heard this good news from the women.

Still they walked home dejected, downcast, lifeless. Why? We don’t know. And we don't know why they didn’t recognize Jesus. We know Jesus’ resurrected body was a transformed body. This must have had something to do with their lack of recognition. But, also, they may not have been able to “see” Jesus because they could not accept the possibility that he was alive.

We, too, have heard the Good News, He is risen! He is alive! Are we dejected, downcast, lifeless? Or are we excited to share the encounter we’ve had, after recognizing him in the breaking of the bread? Or, are we somewhere in between?

Are we slow of heart to believe that Christ is with us, as surely as he was with them?

Perhaps, we are slow to believe because it takes trust, and risk, and vulnerability. It was in taking the risk of hospitality, inviting the stranger to break bread with them, that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…and [their] hearts were burning within [them].

Hospitality means opening one's heart to another. The two disciples did, and their hearts were on fire, they were filled with life; they couldn’t contain it but ran to tell the others.

We can learn much about encountering the Risen Christ in the ministry of loving hospitality. That’s why Jesus left us the gift of the Eucharist…becoming Host to us…so that we can be host to one another, especially those who are different from us.

Time and again, Jesus broke bread with those in the margins of life – Zacchaeus, Mary of Magdala, tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes. Jesus attended to each of them, affirming their inner goodness, taking the risk of making himself vulnerable to ridicule, threats and condemnation. Yet in taking the risk, where previously they were strangers or even enemies, separated by fear and hatred, they became friends. 

To dine with others is to be in solidarity with them…to say to them, I want to be friends with you.

That's risky, and may put us off...unless we're serious about encountering Christ.

Jesus taught us that breaking bread together is symbolic of the paschal feast in the kingdom of God. Thus we take the risk of sharing a meal with those we may not like, and know more fully that we are all parts of one body...his Body...especially when we celebrate the Eucharist.

We also celebrate the Eucharistic meal as a reminder of the ongoing hunger that persists – God’s and ours. We are all hungry, whether we have more than we need or lack what we need. The Eucharist is a call to feed each other's hunger – and God’s - by bridging the great chasm between the have’s and have not’s...and thus experience and give new life. 

Like the Emmaus disciples, we, too, have heard the good news…time and time again, and still, at times, may remain dejected, downcast and lifeless. We may pray to God out there somewhere to lead us out of our doldrums and misery. Perhaps we fail to 'see' the Risen Christ because we may put him back in the tomb, such as the tabernacle, to visit from time-to-time and forget that he came to pitch his tent in us. But if we dare to stick our neck out and be host to another we will discover his Risen Presence in us.
There is a story of a disciple who asks his master, O holy one, give me the question that will renew my soul, and make me feel resurrected. The master replied, The question is, ‘What do they need?’

I shared that story some years back as I was helping the Diocese of Montego Bay in Jamaica, at the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Ocho Rios, and later received an e-mail from a Good Samaritan, who wrote,

Many times I had driven by a homeless man sleeping on a piece of cardboard on the sidewalk, but never really paid attention. This time after Mass with you I stopped. I learned his name, William, and that he was blind, lost, hungry, and he stank. I took him home, washed him, fed him, dressed him in my clothes, and then helped to get him home to another city. At the beginning I had to overcome the stupid barrier of touching somebody who hadn’t had a bath in weeks or months. Within a few minutes, I experienced this wonderful feeling of peace and harmony grow in me. I have been a Catholic all my life but had never encountered the Risen Christ, till that moment. My heart was racing. Tears streamed from my eyes. Thank you, Fr. Frank.

If we are still looking for the Risen Christ…if we are seeking fullness of life, perhaps we need to take the risk of hospitality and break bread with a stranger. Who is that stranger in your life? What do they need?

Saturday, April 22, 2017


I have a question for you. Do you think that Jesus spoke more about love or faith? Let's take a survey. How many here think that Jesus talked more about love...raise your hand? How many think he talked more about faith?

Well, using word search on my computer, here are the results. Jesus talked about love 41 times in the four gospels. He talked about faith 116 times.

The story about the doubting Thomas is all about faith. So let's look at faith.

I don't know if we think much about faith. We talk about rules and doctrines...and we talk about faith to some extent, but I don't know if we really give it serious reflection.

Obviously, we have a certain belief in Jesus and look to him as a human being and the Son of God. He led a good life, did wondrous things, died and rose from the dead. We believe in what he taught, by word and deed. We follow him.

That's all good. But there is more to faith than that. While Jesus is the fullest revelation of God, and we go through him to God, I'm not so sure we venture into the depth of faith. Like my playing in the ocean, we wade around in the shallow water, but may be afraid to go out into the deep.

Deep faith begins with a sense of the colossal magnitude of God, and what it means to believe in God.

Let's put it in perspective. The earth, along with eight other planets, revolves around the Sun, one of the many stars that are part of the galaxy called the Milky Way. A galaxy is made up of a large group of stars and other space objects that swirl round and round in a huge circle. 

Now picture this. Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles a second! This means that in one snap of my fingers, light goes around the world seven times. One snap of the fingers. Seven times. Well, how long would it take light traveling at that speed to cross the width of this great circle of stars called the galaxy? It would take 100,000 years. A hundred thousand the speed of light! That's how big our galaxy is.

There's more. We know that there are other galaxies. Do you know how many? More than three hundred billion. When you think of the size of our takes 100,000 years to get across the diameter at the speed of light. Think about three hundred billion galaxies; it's mind -boggling.

Now, God created this. God is greater than all this. It staggers the mind.

That's what I mean when I say that we have to get beyond the shallow waters of faith, which sees God as sort of a special person out there somewhere. God, this living, loving being that we call God, is utterly beyond our imagination, greater than our comprehension.

When I ponder this, I am filled with awe and wonder at the thought that this great, colossal, holy being called God created me, listens to me, loves me. Probing this very thought is diving into the depth of faith.

How can we possibly believe in someone of that magnitude being so personal? Reason alone is of no help because we're dealing with more than our mind can take in.

Why, then, do we believe? Is it just a wish that maybe there is a loving, living being that is greater than the forces of the universe, and is working to bring it and us all to goodness?

Now we get to the heart of faith. We can believe in God because God takes the initiative to connect with us. For some incomprehensible reason, God created us so that we could relate to God. God made us that way. There is a pull in us toward God that was put there by God. 

Just as a baby is drawn to its mother, we are drawn to God. 

We don't summon faith ourselves. We don't fabricate it, reason our way toward it, and discipline ourselves to believe. It's already in us to be drawn toward God.

What we have to do is allow ourselves to get in touch with this pull towards God. That's what faith is. It's simply sensing this pull towards God, like a baby to its mother.

That's why it's good sometimes to image God as a mother. It's in us to be drawn toward God. That's the way God created us.

Faith is nothing more and nothing less than sensing my connection with God who chose not to be distant, but to be close to me...encircling me, enfolding me. As others have said, It is breathing God's breath and hearing God's heartbeat in mine. It's something very real, not a vague wish. It's already in us.

We simply sense this pull and let ourselves be drawn to God. When I tune into it, and move with that pull, I experience deep faith. And the more I open myself to that awareness, the more I move with it, and my faith gets stronger and stronger.

Let the doubts come. It's such a colossal truth that we can't help but doubt it now and then. But the pull is always there, stronger than any doubt. And when I let go, let God, then I feel a deep down peace that no one can take from me...the peace that Jesus gave in today's gospel. And especially here at Eucharist I learn from Jesus, and I join with him as he did on the cross in laying my whole existence into the hands of this living God.

That's why Jesus talked about faith so much. When we have faith, love follows, and all the rest follows too.

That's why Jesus said, Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed. What we believe in is more than what we can see. It's more than Jesus' resurrection. It's more than the marks in his hands and the wound in his side. It's more than miracles and apparitions. It's nothing less than this great and unimaginable God who loves us and encircles us and enfolds us. 

We simply experience the pull in us towards this God, and we know with everything in us that it is true, and we go with it, and enjoy it, and we say, Thank you. And wouldn't you know, the Greek word for thanksgiving is Eucharist.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


With joyous excitement, a friend at Gabriel House said to me, Fr. Frank, I won the biggest lottery! I'm getting a new heart! I have no words to describe how I feel. And to know that someone had to give their life for me to have new life. How can I ever repay them?

My dear friends, We have won the biggest lottery! We have received a heart transplant! We have God's heart...God's spirit within give us new life! He us! Alleluia!

This is both our conviction of faith and a mystery. Today I'm going to focus on our second reading, St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians, to see what resurrected life is all about. 

I chose this letter because it contains a truth about the Resurrection that you may never have thought of. Not that you've never heard the words before. But sometimes you read a familiar passage, and a light goes on, and you see one of the well-known truths of our faith come alive in a new way. That's what happened to me and I want to share it with you. Here goes.

In his letter, Paul writes, When you were buried with Christ in Baptism, you were also raised with him. Paul doesn't say, You will be raised with Christ at the end of your life. It's in the past tense. You were raised with Christ. 

Now think about that. When Jesus died, God brought him to a new life - a transformed, risen, human life. Paul says that we have received this same life.

There's more. Paul says: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above...for your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Now, here's the flash of awareness, the good news I want to share. 

v  The resurrection isn't an event that simply happened to Christ.
v  The resurrection isn't something we look forward to when we die.

Paul is saying that the resurrection of Christ gives us new life right now. We are enfolded into the life of the risen!

That is what happened at baptism. We didn't simply go into the water to express our intent to die to one way of living, and then come out of the water to express our intent to try to live a good life. There's more to it than that. Christ emerged from the tomb with a transformed, human, risen life. We emerged from baptism with a participation in the same life Christ received when he rose from the dead.

This is the life Christ gives to us: his transformed, human, risen life.

Think about it. This is the life that is nourished within us at every Eucharist. At the Eucharist we join with Christ in his dying and rising during the Eucharistic prayer. And then at Communion we come forward and literally become one with the Risen Christ. We are tangibly, visibly enfolded into Christ and his risen life when we eat the bread and drink the cup.

We become one with him. We are the same, but different. Just as he was the same after the resurrection, but different.

There's one more thing to say about this. I hope it will help us understand it more fully.

One of the things Paul deals with in other parts of this letter is the incorrect teaching of some in the community who said that we have first of all to believe in Jesus Christ, and then we have to earn a place in heaven - eternal life - by living an upright life.

Paul, in today's passage, says it's the other way around. Good behavior doesn't cause God to give the gift of risen life. God's gift of risen life causes me to live a good life. We don't earn a share in the risen life of Christ by "being good". Living a good life is simply a response to the risen life we have already been given. It's a matter of living up to who we are.

When I realize that I actually share in the transformed, human, risen life of Christ, then I want to live a better life. It's like my friend receiving new life through another's heart and act of generous love, and wanting to express her gratitude to her donor through her act of love...and a life of generosity.

Sharing in the risen life of Christ is not a future expectation. It is an accomplished fact. It results in, not simply living the way Christ once lived, but the way Christ is living and thinking us, and through us.

My sisters and brothers, we have received a new life - from Christ. That is what we celebrate today. That is what impels us to do good and be good. But how we choose to respond to this heart-transplant is up to us. 

Our Church exhorts us, May those reborn in Baptism be one with Christ through their deeds. As we respond at Communion, Amen...Let it be so.

With great joy, I say once more, HAPPY EASTER! ALLELUIA!

Friday, April 14, 2017


There is a beautiful and powerful story by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree.

Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.

And so begins the story of a tree being happy because she is able to make the boy happy. At first the boy desires nothing but to climb on her branches, eat her apples, and lie in the shade.

But as the boy grows, so do his desires. Because of the tree’s love, she gives her apples for him to sell for money to have more fun; her branches that he might build a house for a wife and family; and her trunk so he could build a boat and sail away from the boredom of life.

And then one day, the prodigal returns to the tree that loves him. By now, she had given him everything; all that remains of her is an old stump. The boy, now an old man, needs only a quiet place to sit and rest. And the giving tree gives once more.

Good Friday - what is it that we commemorate today? Of course, we remember and mourn Jesus' painful and humiliating death. In his suffering and death God seems to be reduced to silence. But today we especially remember and give thanks for the life-giving love on the cross.

We raise our eyes to Jesus who gave his all...who died to give us someone whose nature was and is to give life! 

His death is the victory of love; it is the victory of life over death, for we see Jesus’ death in the light of his resurrection and the beginning of our risen life. Death is defeated! Death has no power over us!

In Jesus’ cry on the cross we hear the cry of all those who are, or have been, crucified. But also their hopes that they and we with Jesus will overcome evil.

Why did the Pharisees and Romans kill Jesus? Why did the mob cry out, Crucify him! Crucify him! Because they failed to see the holy presence of God in Jesus.

Why do we kill each other…with words if not guns? Because we fail to see the holy presence of God in each other.

What will it take for us to see, to be more aware, of God’s presence in each of us?

Perhaps something as simple as looking at the cross…the one we venerate today…any cross…any crucifix…perhaps the one we wear.

Each time we see the cross, let us remember not only his great love to give his life…his all…for give life to us, but that God is here with us…within each of us

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Palms and Passion - triumph and humiliation.

The multitude singing Hosanna (which means God saves); the crowd shouting Crucify him! Crucify him! 

Betrayal, denial, abandonment; repentance, embracing and commissioning.

Light and darkness; darkness and light.

On this Palm Sunday, and during Holy Week, we have many questions to ponder. To begin, Why did it have to be this way? Why is it still this way - one moment entertaining sin, the next seeking to do good?

We know the story well. It's our story. It isn't just a question of With whom do we identify in the Passion drama? There is a part of the crowd and of the apostles in each of us.

We, too, fall to temptation, fear, sins of every stripe. What will it take for us so that as we enter this holiest of weeks, making time to walk with Christ, and reflecting on our Lord's passion, death and resurrection, we will be more faithful to our commitment...more loving to our neighbor?

Today we hold palms. In the coming days we will be invited to enter the drama even more deeply as we wash feet, kiss the wood of the cross, and keep vigil. All of this is to emphasize our presence in the story, to urge us to make the story our own. But no matter how we see ourselves in the drama unfolding this week, we cannot escape where the story leads...death and resurrection, which is probably the reason it is so treasured!

As we reflect on our part in the story, may we also ponder, Is Jesus really the Son of God who died for me? How different is my life because I know him?

This week, let us make time to reflect on the story, not just what happened, and what he did, but what we must do to be resurrected with him.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Vito…Franco…come out and play!

As kids growing up in Windsor, Canada, my brother and I would hear our friends on Elsmere Street yell out to begin another day of exploring the park nearby, playing baseball or hockey (depending on the season), or Cowboys and Indians. We were being called out of the confines of our little house by the love of our friends to be more fully alive at play.

Today, we hear Jesus, with great compassion, yell to his friend, Lazarus, come out and play! Come out and live!

Our gospel today, and our journey of faith, are about being fully alive.  As Jesus said, I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.  Perhaps, nothing makes us feel fully alive as kids at play.

If at times we feel entombed, Jesus says to us, Come out and play! Come out and live!  

There are many tombs in life. Each of us can feel entombed at times by the stress or hum-drum routine of our lives, and perhaps most of all by broken relationships that drain the life out of us.

In the movie, Flatliners, medical students begin to explore near-death experiences, hoping for insights. They each have their hearts stopped and revived. During those episodes, they begin having flashes of nightmares from the past, resulting from violent acts they committed or had committed against them. The experiences continue to intensify, and they begin to feel physically beaten by their visions as they try to go deeper into the death experience to find a cure.

The film asserts that the tombs we live in are relational. What drains the life out of us is sin. And all sin is relational. For those medical students, not being able to love or not being able to accept love was at the heart of their near-death experiences.

During our Lenten journey we have been examining our life, pondering who we are and whose we are. Perhaps it has also led us to reflect on our relationships, those that are life-giving and those that enclose us in lifeless tombs.

We all want healthy relationships. We know this demands love and sacrifice, honesty and trust, a desire for the other's well-being. This is the kind of love - the love of God - that Jesus came to manifest and to model for us. He wants us to be a community of friends and lovers.

But, though we know this, we may find ourselves bound-up by self-interest, which cuts us off from others - and from God. Without realizing it, we find ourselves living in tombs where life is drained out of us. 

If we feel lifeless, often, it is we ourselves who dig our graves.

Thus, as much as we want the best relationship with God, with others and with ourselves, we may prefer worldly values to God's, we let friendships wither, we ignore and even resent those who are different, and fall prey to self-pity, not accepting God's forgiveness nor forgive ourselves. Which leaves us like the walking dead.

Just as the actions of our childhood friends made my brother and me more alive, so do the life-giving actions of God, as reflected in our readings today. In love, God made a promise - a covenant - with us, irrevocably and unconditionally saying through the prophet Ezekiel, I will put my spirit in you that you may live.

The Lazarus story tells us not only of the power of Christ over death, but of friendship...and love...which free us from all that entombs us

Life not not confinement. That's God desire for us. And it's our desire too.

But we have to do our part. Just as Vito and I had to hear our friends' call, and make the move from the semi-comfort of our home to join them and be more fully alive, we must be willing to hear God's call and be attentive to God's will in our lives, which is profoundly simple - to imitate in all we do and say that same covenant of love: Love one another as I have loved you. 

Today's gospel invites us to challenge all that traps us into separating ourselves from others. As in the Lazarus story, Christ commands us: Untie yourself and be set free.

My sisters and brothers, we are Lazarus, and Christ, our best friend, calls out: Come out and play!