Friday, December 31, 2010

The last day of december and the anti-Christ

In today's first reading we have what has become one of the most ominous terms in Christianity, "the antichrist."

By playing a rather strained theological version of connect the dots using select bible verses from various books some have constructed the idea of this single evil person who will appear in the future, like Damien in the movies. During the reformation some of course wanted to claim that the pope was this figure.

We forget that we, as Christians, do not believe in a dualistic universe, God vs. the Devil. In the Christian understanding of the world Satan is not an equal opposite of God. God is God and Satan is merely a creature whose power is minuscule compared to God.

In today's reading John writes, "just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared." Notice that he says many and he talks of their appearance, not as something in the future but, as something that had already happened. The reading today ends with " I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth."

The antichrist is not some supernatural futuristic being but simply those who they knew would come who would be anti-Christ, and would deny the truth and try to convince the early church that what they knew to be true was wrong.

"Every lie is alien to the truth"

For John there are no "white lies." is it difficult to always tell the truth? Yes. Because we are also called to love, we often must search for gentle tactful ways to speak the truth and we must always be careful that we don't confuse what is merely our opinion for the truth. But John reminds us today that there is a truth, we can know the truth, and we must remain committed to it.

Perhaps a good place to begin the new year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Simple not easy

On this sixth day of the octave, two days from the beginning of 2011, the first reading reminds us of the freedom that we have. I never cease to be amazed at how many Christians talk and act as if sin is inevitable, or past a certain age we can't change.

John reminds us today that our sins have been forgiven, we know God the father , and we have conquered the Evil One. So there are no excuses for us not doing what we know to be right. We are not bound to sin just because we are human. With the grace of God we are truly free to choose.

This doesn't mean it is easy but it is possible. The key this reading reminds us is that we are strong and the word of God remains in us. We need to keep ourselves constantly aware of these realities. How do we do this? There is no magic formula. It's just a matter of practice, daily intentionality. The confiteor gives us the four categories of our daily choices.
We can choose what we will think about, what we will say, what we will do, and what we won't do.

Though the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ, God has given us true freedom, let us use it wisely one day at a time.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Time for a movie

Christmas like Easter is celebrated in the Catholic Church not for a single day, but for an octave, eight days. The theology goes back to an early Christian image of Sunday not as the first day, but the eighth day, that is, the first day of the new creation. Today is the fifth day of the octave of Christmas.

It also happens to be the commemoration of Thomas Becket, a wonderful saint for the beginning of a new year because he reminds us that conversion to Christ happens in stages and it is never to late. A close friend of Henry II of England, Thomas was ordained a deacon early in life but ordination did not seem to have much of an impact on his life and morals.

It was only much later when he was made archbishop of Canterbury that he truly came to understand the meaning of his ordination and experienced a true conversion of heart that would ultimately cost him his life.

Historical accounts of his life are conflicting, and like all movies, the 1964 movie Becket takes some license with the story but it can still be an inspiration to all of us, as we prepare to welcome 2011.

Truth be told all of us are in one way or another "cafeteria Catholics." We focus on those parts of the church's teaching with which we are most comfortable and shy away from the parts that would force us to sacrifice or change our lives. Perhaps today is the day for us to pray for the intercession of St. Thomas Becket to open our eyes that we may see clearly that where we most need conversion in our own lives.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Today we commemorate the children slaughtered by Herod in his search of the child Jesus. His was a premeditated slaughter of newborn children but each year thousands of children die in infancy around our world most from starvation and preventable illnesses. Except for Afghanistan, the ten countries with the highest infant mortality are all in Africa. Despite the myth in most peoples minds about the amount of money we spend in foreign aid, in reality it is less that 1% of our budget, and only a fraction of that goes to Africa.
On the other end of the spectrum we look at the countries with the lowest infant morality and we are 45th behind countries like Greece and Israel.
Today let pray for all the mothers around the world who will see their infants die this day, and let us pray this coming year we may work to make the numbers smaller.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Feast Day

To my parishioners at St. John's I wish you a happy feast day. It is unfortunate that when they were choosing the name for the parish no one checked the calendar and realized that the parish feast day would be two days after Christmas and not conducive to a parish celebration. How do you schedule a party for Dec. 27.

On the up side we got the youngest of the apostles. In art work in order to show his youth he is the one apostle depicted without, leading Dan Brown to claim in his books that John is Mary Magdalene. My sympathies to our patron.

He is also credited with no less than 5 books of the Bible: the gospel, three letters, and the book of Revelation. Particularly in the letters we see the profound relationship he shared with Jesus. It is John who gives us the simple but profound definition, God is love. It was in this love that Jesus entrusted John and Mary to each other at his crucifixion.

Today we invoke the intercession of the beloved disciple to deepen within each of us a true love for Jesus attachment to his mother.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Modern Family

This morning as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family I woke up to one of the local networks looking for the local versions of "the modern family" based on a television program. One of the things you realize very quickly if you think about it is that "modern" is a constantly moving target. What was modern in 1950 is now antique. Even the word modern has in some people's minds become so old-fashioned that they want to refer to today as "post-modern" which begs the very definition of modern. How do you keep up?

You don't. As Christians we are called not to strive to be the modern family but to strive to be the holy family. This doesn't mean a rejection of technology or science or medicine, but simply reminding ourselves of what has always made anything, anyone, or any place holy, the presence of God. In our Catholic tradition we have decorated our home with art(crucifixes, statues, and pictures) to remind ourselves of that presence of God.

We are also reminded on this Feast that part of the mission of the Church is to be the Holy Family. With God-Our Father, Mary-our Mother, Jesus- our brother, and every church-our home, to be that place of love and security especially for those who feel alone and unloved in our world.

On this Feast of the Holy Family may every Catholic Parish and Christian Church throughout the world be renewed in it's mission to be the Holy Family, a sanctuary for all need.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Christmas is the only celebration in our calendar that has in the missal four distinct masses, each with it's own prayers and readings
— the vigil, which can be any evening mass before midnight
—Midnight Mass, the only mass in the calendar with not only a specific date but time as well
—Mass at dawn, celebrated in many counties as the Misa del Gallo

and finally, Mass during the Day.

If you wait to attend the mass during the day you will find in the readings, no Bethlehem, no Mary, no shepherds, no angels, none of the traditional images of Christmas. Instead what you will get is probably the most famous prologue ever written, the prologue to John's gospel (Jn 1:1-18).

In the beginning was the word,and the word was with God, and the word was God...

We are reminded that Jesus did not come into existence at Christmas nor even at the annunciation. Jesus, the second person of the trinity existed from all eternity and was the one through whom God made the universe. But this prologue does more, it answers the question why. Why was it from the beginning of time God's plan to make a creature, humanity, and then to send the second person of the trinity to be truly one of them?

His answer: But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.

In the words of St. Anthanatius, in de Incarnatione, "God became man so that man might become God."

One third of the world's population is Christian, and the U.S, has the largest Christian population of all. With all of the power and influence we still have in the world, imagine how we could change the world if each one us simply chose to live our identity to the fullest.

Today may each of us recommit ourselves to waking up each morning and living each day as true children of God, and let us have the courage to challenge our Christian brothers and sisters to do the same. Jesus not only gave us the power to do it, as John says, but he made it simple, he boils it down to two commandments:
Jesus replied, "The first is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.'

The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

In this season of gifts what more could we want?

Friday, December 24, 2010

O little town of Bethlehem

There is in the missal there is a mass with its own readings for Dec. 24 in the morning. The readings for the final mass of advent recall the promise to David to raise up from his heirs a kingdom without end,
I cannot celebrate this day without recalling my time in the Spring in the Holy Land and Bethlehem in particular. Only about 5 miles from Jerusalem, the Christian population continues to dwindle. When we hear the word Palestinian we forget that many Palestinians were until recently Christians, the politics of the few decades have caused young Bethlehem Christians to leave their homeland in droves.
Tonight the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal فؤاد طوال will celebrate Midnight Mass in Bethlehem in a church crowded with tourists. But when the tourist go home he remains to keep the Catholic faith alive in a local church struggling to survive. I had the opportunity to visit with him, and was honored by the time he took to sit with three of us and discuss the situation. The good news is that he was able to report some signs of hope, but there is no doubt that it is difficult. In our prayers this Christmas let us remember and pray for him and his church.
The video of the mass I presided at in the church of the nativity is on my Facebook page.
With Evening Prayer tonight the Christmas Season begins.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We come full circle on our wreath

Advent began with readings that remind us of the double meaning of the season, the two comings of Christ: The first coming with the conception and birth of Jesus and the second coming at the end of time.

Today on the last full day of Advent we have the same reminders. In the first reading we have the promise of Elijah. Elijah who is said to be the prophet who will return to usher in the the messianic age, the final kingdom of peace and brotherhood.

In the Jewish tradition there has always been great debate over how many cups of wine should be drunk at Passover, four or five. Jewish pour the fifth cup but do not drink it. It is called Elijah's cup because he will settle the conflict. Also in some Jewish communities the door is opened by a child for Elijah.

The gospel then turns to the prophet who prepared for the first coming announcing his arrival, John the Baptist.

In these last hours as we prepare to celebrate the first coming, we too need to make sure that in the midst of the cooking, shopping, packing, and other activity that we pause at least once today to pray. To still our minds and hearts and prepare ourselves to receive Christ anew.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

nazarene or nazirite

The first reading for today recalls for us the ambiguities that always occur in translations. In this case it is one of the ambiguities of translating the Hebrew/ Aramaic world of Jesus into the New Testament world of Greek, the mother tongue of Christianity.

The New Testament speaks of Jesus being a Nazarene, and scholars have argued over the meaning of the word. Does it mean he was from Nazareth or does it mean he was at some point a nazarite? Or does it mean both?

A nazirite vow was a type of consecration to God. Usually it was done for a limited period of time, at least 30 days. Some were nazirites for life. The most famous were John the Baptist, Samson, and the one in today's reading Samuel. Most often a person consecrated themselves. The connection of this reading to Christmas is that Samuel was consecrated by his mother even before his conception. (1 Sam 1:11)

While scholars may debate the nazirite status of Jesus there is no doubting that each of us is consecrated to God by virtue of our baptism. The requirements of that consecration are different.

We can have a glass of wine or haircut. But the demands of our consecration are no less real. As we prepare to celebrate the moment when God became man was made visible in Jesus Christ, may we deepen our own understanding of what it means that we too are temples, dwelling places of the very divinity of God.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Longing on the darkest day

North of the equator today officially designates the shortest day and the beginning of winter. Here in Richmond we will have only 9 hours and 33 minutes of daylight. But the Son is coming back.

The first reading today is taken from the Song of Songs, the one book of the bible considered so racy by some segments of the Jewish tradition that no man under 30 should read it. It reminds how the word passion has changed meaning over time. Originally it referred to suffering; now it is associated with romance. What the two meanings have in common is longing.

Can we remember when we teenager and first fell in love and how it almost literally hurt to be separated from the one you loved? That pain is passion. When the of loosing the one you love hurts so much you can't stand it.

Today we read the Song of Songs because Christians have seen in this book not just the story of a man and woman, or married love, but the story of the longing in every human heart for God, the relationship of the soul to God.

One of the challenges of this season is the false expectation of joy, a joy we all think we are suppose to feel, but don't. Don't worry about it, It only means you are human. The truth is: Only in union with divine can our true passion be satisfied.

In Christ was the perfect union of divinity and humanity, and only in eternal life will we know that perfect union with God, and the true joy of Christmas. 'Til then enjoy the glimpse, the taste that we get in this life, and feel the passion for more.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Today's first reading repeats a portion of what we heard in the first reading yesterday, Isaiah's proclamation of the name Emmanuel, God with us, and the miracle that the name recalls. Even 2000 years later we still struggle to truly grasp the meaning of the name.

In these last days before we celebrate that birth of Christ we are given the opportunity to open our eyes to see that presence of God. As Christians we must have the vision to see through the conflicts and wars, to see through the glitz and commerce, and to see the real presence of God with us.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I just logged in and realized that the blog entry intended for yesterday just posted today. Please click yesterdays post "O What a week ahead."

O, What a week ahead

Today the Church makes another transition in it's liturgy as we move closer to Christmas.  Most Christians are familiar with the Advent song, "O Come O Come Emmanuel." What many don't realize is that the versed are part of evening prayer and are each assigned to one of the last 7 evenings of Advent beginning today.

December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O God is with Us)

Many in the Spanish speaking world yesterday began their celebration of "Las  Posadas" the nine days that commemorate the search of Mary and Joseph for lodging.  Their search will end on the eve of the 24 when at the doors of the church they are welcomed.

Our Filipino brothers and sisters developed a similar tradition, a novena of masses celebrated now in the early hours of the morning,  which they call "Simbang Gabi." The conclusion retains its Spanish name " Misa del Gallo" (The Mass of the Rooster). The Roman Missal still provides four masses for Christmas: Vigil, Midnight, Dawn, and Christmas Day.

These are but a few of the ways that these last days of Advent are singled out as a time of prayer and special preparation.  That Christ may be reborn in us, and the Antiphon "Hodie Christus natus est" Today Christ is born may come not just from our lips but from our hearts when we gather  to celebrate Christmas.

Monday, December 6, 2010

St. Nick

Today we recall the life of St. Nicholas and remind ourselves of his constant intercession for us still.

Of all our saints, he is probably the most commercialized, but before we complain about the culture we need to look at ourselves. For centuries Catholic children grew up on stories of the lives of the saints. Were some of them exaggerated? Yes, But their primary functions was not to serve as dry history textbooks but to stir the imagination and remind us that with God all things are possible. When we stopped telling our own stories advertisers recognized the inherent power and seized on it.

As I explore the story of the real St. Nicholas what I find most valuable was not that he gave gifts or cared for the poor; many people do that. What I find most inspiring was that he tried to keep his charity secret. Secret charity, truly Christian charity benefits the giver and the receiver. As the givers, our faith calls us to give without seeking anything in return (no plaque, no announcement, not card). For the recipient we allow them to keep their dignity.

I remember well the embarrassment I felt as a child whose family qualified for reduced price school lunch because the lunch ticket was a different color, announcing to the world, every time I went to lunch, that my family was poor.
How often do our systems to help the poor simultaneously rob them of their human dignity, as if being poor is something shameful.

Let us pray on this commemoration of St. Nicholas that our hearts be filled with the same spirit of Caritas.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Actions not words

Today we pause in our Advent celebration and celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew. While the gospel accounts of his call vary, the one assigned for the liturgy is Matthew. In Matthew, Jesus sees the fishermen calls them and immediately they leave everything and follow him. A reader familiar with old testament will on hearing this remember the call of Abraham in Gn 12 where we are told simply that he went.

Sometimes we have to just do what we know to be right. There is a place for reflection, but there are also those moments in life when if we think too much we talk ourselves out of the right choice and rationalize the easy choice.

Sometimes we have to make the leap of faith.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lord I am not worthy...

The words of the centurion are familiar to all of us because we pray those words every time we celebrate the Eucharist.  Yes, the words are about to change. The new translation will bring the liturgical text closer to the biblical text and the Latin original of the pray with "to have you enter under my roof" in place or "to receive you."
The unworthiness of the centurion is not, however, the center of the passage. More important as he explains is the issue of authority and the power of the word of God.
His acknowledgment of being under authority disturbs us.  We mistakenly misunderstand the concept of freedom. We act at times as if to be free means to not be under the authority of anyone.  The paradox of the gospel is that it is only when we acknowledge the authority and power of Christ in our life that we can find our true freedom: freedom from the power of sin and death, freedom to live the new life Christ gained for us.
Jesus says of the pagan, Roman centurion that no where in Israel had he found such faith. Today we are invited to reflect on is how much we really trust in the power of Christ to change our lives and bring us healing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

St Cecilia

Today we celebrate the patroness of musicians and are reminded once more of the special place that our church has always accorded to music, and in particular to song and chant.

While we may refer to what birds to as singing, it is not. It is technically a whistle. To sing is to combine two of God's great gifts, music and spoken language. And there is a power in this combination to move our very soul, to joy and to tears.

One of the most tragic losses in our liturgy is the loss of singing which seems in many places to have been relegated to the choir. This Sunday we begin a new liturgical cycle let us pray that through the intercession of St. Cecilia our churches may be filled with the sound of the people raising their voices in praise of God.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dedication of St. John Lateran

If someone were to ask "Which church in Rome is the cathedral of the diocese?", most people would probably answer St. Peter's.
The cathedral church of the Pope is the one we celebrate today, St. John on Lateran Hill. It's real name is "The Arch-basilica of the Most Holy Savior and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist." (interesting to note that both Johns are included in the name.)

It is the one church whose dedication we celebrate throughout the world because as the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, it stands as a symbol of the unity of the universal church. It was consecrated in the year 324 and has seen the church through many successes and failures.

As any old house owner can tell you, if the foundation of the building is good, the rest can be repaired. And the readings today remind us that our church is built on the perfect foundation, Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate the dedication of our ancient church, we recognize it needs some repairs, but with Christ as our sure foundation we have nothing to fear.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The strange response

The response to the apostles today strikes me as strange. Jesus has just finished explaining how even if someone wrongs you seven times in a single day, if they apologize, you are to forgive them, and the response of the apostles is to ask for faith. Jesus tells them faith isn't the issue, when he says "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed..."
It strike me that the real issue in this kind of forgiveness of repeated sin is neither faith nor love, but the third theological virtue, hope.
When some continues to do the same thing over and over again, we loose hope. We begin to believe that they will never change, or worse yet, they can never change. We loose all hope. In a word we despair.
Despair in Christianity is considered a sin. Why? Because it is a denial of the power of God, and Grace.
Science tells us that our physical self is in a constant state of change, even after we die. Our faith tells us until the very last nanosecond of our earthly life, conversion to God is possible.
As long as God exists there is always hope.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Needing Help

The lectionary is constructed so that for Sunday's the first reading goes with the Gospel. Usually this connection seems fairly obvious. In today's reading this is not so clear.
In the gospel we have the story of the unjust judge, and the first reading a battle.
One connection can be seen if we start with the opening line, Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity to pray always.
Do I really need to pray ALWAYS? Why?
There's where the first reading comes in. What figure in the Old Testament is greater than Moses?
And yet in today's first reading he needs help. By the end of the reading he cannot stand on his own two feet, literally. He has to sit on a rock. Aron and Hur have to hold his arm up for him.
In the New Testament even Christ did not carry his cross alone.
Of all God creatures is there any other that develops more slowly than us. We now know that the brain is not fully developed until 25. How old are we before we can take care of ourselves?
We start life lying in a bed needing someone to feed us and change our diapers and if we live long enough we end up the same way. And the thought of that terrifies most of us. We think of it as a fate worse than death.
But why?
Because we've bought the lie—The great lie of independence.
God built us to need Him and to need others.
"It is not good for the man to be alone."
We are created in the image and likeness of God who is one, but also three.
We must pray always because we are always in need of help. The food I eat, grown by someone else. The clothes I wear, made by someone else. How many people does it take to produce the electricity that powers all my stuff, and bring it to my house and keep it working?
None of us can function our own.
Most of all I need God, all day every day, who gives me life.

The woman in the gospel kept going back to the judge because she knew she needed his help. She could not do it on her own.
Are we constantly aware of our need for God.

Pray always

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Make a choice

The section Paul's letter to the Galatians we are reading now can come across as a Conde,nation of the Jewish faith. What Paul is really saying to the people is that they must decide. They cannot live with a foot in each world choosing from the old and new covenant the parts which seem to hem more attractive. If they want to be Jews then they are bound to the Torah in its entirety. If they are going to follow the new covenant in Christ then they must trust completely in it. But the bottom line is that they must make a choice.
Do we truly trust in Jesus Christ? Do we trust that his kingdom will come? Do we trust that in the end God wins? Do we trust that God's justice will prevail?
If we do, then why so much talk of stress?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

God works in mysterious ways

Today we celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary. No other prayer is more associated with Catholics throughout the world. While praying of the rosary has fallen off in some places, something curious has happened. Several people who work in the education field have reported seeing non-catholic young people wearing the rosary like jewelry, with no idea what it means.

While our gut reaction may be to see this as a sign of disrespect, perhaps it is something else. Each of us is created with a soul and a conscience that knows God, even if we try to deny that truth. The "image and likeness of God" in us draws us toward not just some abstract notion of God, but toward a relationship with God and all that is part of the larger spiritual reality we call the kingdom of God.

When I see a kid wearing a rosary, oblivious to its meaning, at least on a conscious level, I recall the mustard seed.

On this feast of our lady may we Catholics rediscover the power of this devotion, and may every rosary carried or worn this day be an instrument of God's grace, causing the mustard seed no matter how small to grow into a true faith.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No perfect Church

The first today reminds us that there never has been a moment in the history of the church when it was perfect. We say it is one, holy catholic, and apostolic; but we have never claimed perfection. This did not however keep Paul from going to the hierarchy of the church at the time, to be sure that the gospel he was preaching was correct.

There has always been struggle within the church, because it is filled with people. Rather than making me disillusioned it only serves for me as more proof that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who guides us, and has held us together despite our best efforts to tear ourselves apart.

The struggle can be good. It can help us to clarify what we believe. And it will probably continue until the moment when we reach perfection in heaven.

- Fr. Wayne

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The more things change....

Many of us are familiar with the French saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Most often it is said with a sense of resignation, and cynical hopelessness. In today's first reading we see, however, how something or someone can remain fundamentally the same and yet change.

Paul describes his former life of persecuting Christians as one driven by extraordinary zeal. We might call him today a fanatic. What is worth noting is that God did not remove this quality from his personality he simply redirected it. Paul remained to the end of his life as zealous as he ever was. The zeal was simply redirected.

The same is true with each of us. The more we come to understand the human person, the more we come to understand that we are not infinitely malleable Our basic personality stays the same. This does not mean however that we have permission to simply throw up our hands and say,"Well, that's just the way I am."

Are you a person who sees every little mistake? Then perhaps that attention to detail can be turned to seeing the presence of God in every little thing, or offered to assist people who find detail oriented work overwhelming, helping the needy deal with the mountain of forms they often have to fill out to get assistance.

Do you find yourself on the phone constantly gossiping? Maybe that talkativeness needs to be directed to the good, and you should be in charge of the phone tree.

Today's first reading offers us an opportunity to look at our own personality and ask which of our basic personality traits do we still need God's grace to redirect.

Will change happen overnight? Probably not. Will we find ourselves slipping back into old patterns? Probably, from time to time. But with time and grace, conversion will happen.

Monday, October 4, 2010

St. Francis

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Francis. It strikes me as providential that this year this feast coincides with the opening of the supreme court. For the virtue of justice, when I studied canon law, we had ulpian's definition drilled into us:The perpetual and constant will to give to each person their right(ius sum).
We often hear People say, "justice is blind." It should be remembered that the first depiction of justice as blind only dates back to the 16th century, in Switzerland. In the Catholic tradition the role of the judge is not mere referee but the one who is charged with knowing the law and applying it to each case before him/her, recognizing that no two cases are absolutely identical. From the Catholic perspective plaintiffs and defendants are not interchangeable widgets. Each person from the moment the are conceived is a unique creation of God whose life is by its very nature holy, and to be respected.
Today's saint was one who could see the sanctity of every human life that stood before him. May our justices have that same wisdom and true insight as they carry out the awesome task with which they are charged.

- Fr. Wayne

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Guardian Angels

After a few incredibly busy days, I'm back.
If someone asks where are guardian angels in the Bible, the clearest answer is found in the gospel.

In the gospel of Matthew we read "Beware that you don't despise a single one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.*

The Church continues to teach not just a belief in angels in general but in guardian angels specifically, purely spiritual beings whose role it is to watch over us.

I would simply remind you of the simple prayer:

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear to whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide. Amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The manners of a dog

Growing up in Danville, I remember hearing the older folks say of someone who was ill-mannered, "He has the manners of a dog."

Today's gospel is the well-known story of the rich man and Lazarus. Oblivious to the situation of Lazarus the rich man sits in his house dining sumptuously while Lazarus suffers sickness and poverty just outside his door.

I'm sure he probably used the same excuse we often do. We see so much chronic poverty, we decide we can't fix all of it and therefore excuse ourselves from fixing any of it. But then there is the dog.

Luke includes what seems to be a superfluous detail. The dog would lick the sores of Lazarus.

God has built into dogs this instinctive reaction. They lick sores to try and heal them. Does it always work? No. Does it even sometimes make them worse? Yes. But the intention and instinct is a good one. The dog sees the suffering man and does what he can to help.

So in fact the dog in this gospel is more well-mannered than the rich man. The rich man doesn't even have the manners of a dog.

Are we expected to cure all the world's ills? But are we expected to do what we can? The US is less than 5% of the world population and consume 25% of the energy. We throw away so much food that it costs us 1 billion dollars a year just to dispose of wasted food. And probably all of us reading this blog, truth be told, myself included, are by world standards "rich."

Perhaps my prayer today is simple: Lord give me the manners of the dog.
Help me to truly see those in need and do what I can to help.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vanity of vanities

Today's first reading ends with this famous quote,"Vanity of vanities. all things are vanity." It strikes me that when we use the word vanity in modern American English we tend to think of it in the sense of the old Carley Simon song, You're so vain. The fact is this is not the sense in which the word is meant in this passage. Here it is meant in this same sense as when we say we did something in vain.
The best translation I have found is the German one. The word the German Catholic Bible uses is "Windhauch", literally a breath of wind. In the great scheme of things all of the things over which we seem as a nation to be so intensely angry today are a mere breath of wind, a puff of air.

Perhaps we need this sense of perspective now more than ever.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Remembering our Jewish Roots

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew, the apostle credited with giving the gospel that is placed first in the New Testament. How appropriate that we celebrate him at the same time of year our Jewish brothers and sisters mark Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Of the four gospels, Matthew most of all aims to show that the message of Jesus was not something disconnected from Judaism but was in fact the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Some scholars even see in his gospel a five part division the mimics the five books of the Torah.
Perhaps today we pray for a deeper sense of unity between ourselves and Jewish brothers and sisters.

Monday, September 20, 2010

All winners

Today we celebrate the memorial of the 103 Korean Martyrs, usually two names are singled out St. Andrew Kim and St. Paul Chong, one priest and one layman.

We recently completed our celebration of the year of the priests. While most of it was positive, there were some voices who attempted to claim that to celebrate the ministerial priesthood was somehow "exclusive" or "clericalism", that praising the ministerial priesthood somehow denigrates the priesthood of the faithful.

The error of this thinking is that it assumes that there is a finite amount of praise and that it is a zero sum game. To give to one, you must take from another.

Is it true that in the past the role of the laity was undervalued? Yes. The answer is not, however, to now undervalue the role of the ordained priest. We did that in the last half of the twentieth century and we see the result.

What we need is balance. We need to go back and read the Vatican II document on the role of the laity, and their unique mission in the world. At the same time we need to not be ashamed to say that there is something special about the role of the ordained priest. Even after everything the priesthood has been through in the last few years, every study shows that most priests today still say they would not choose any other life.

The Korean church needed Andrew and Paul each with unique gifts and called to a distinct ministry in the church. May we find our way to true collaboration, that every part of the body of Christ work for the building up of the whole.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rules, Ritual, and all that stuff

These I hear a lot of people who will describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. When you ask what's wrong with religion The answer I get is some version of "I just don't buy all those rules and ritual, and all that stuff." Even some who will describe themselves as Christian will try and claim that "all that stuff" isn't what Jesus was about.

Once again they make the fatal mistake of forgetting that Christianity isn't a faith of either/or but rather a both/and.

My theology of law professor in Rome once asked the question "Will there be law in heaven?" His answer was "No." In heaven there will be no need for law because everyone will live constantly by the virtue of justice, the constant and perpetual will to give to each person that which is their right--in short they will love,

But we are not there yet. In the mean time we need rules and rituals. Which of us has not developed a ritual to help us cope with at least the first half hour of every morning? How many of the same people who balk at organized religion have a workout routine for the gym or a yoga class they attend where they are told that not only does each asana have an precise shape but even the sequence of the asanas is important.

Jesus does not condemn the laws of the Pharisees per se. On the contrary, he says clearly that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. What Jesus condemns are those examples where the rules and rituals remain on the surface, those examples where they do not fulfill their purpose, interior conversion of heart, right relationship with God and others.

It has been 10 years now since I finished my canon law degree at the Gregorian University in Rome. And I am still thankful that our Dean's focus was not simply on our memorizing the law, but understanding the purpose behind each law and its connection to God's law of love.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's not fair


Which of us did not at some point whine this refrain to our parents. Today we celebrate what may seem to be a strangely titled feast. In English it is either referred to as "The Exaltation of the Cross" or "The Triumph of the Cross."

We lift up the cross. We venerate the cross, we repeat the refrain  "Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have  set us free. You are the savior of the world." The question is: are we willing to embrace the cross and imitate Christ fully?

Love of neighbor and a sense of charity may move us to give to those in need: flood victims in Pakistan, hurricane victims in Louisiana. What Christ did on the cross was no mere act of philanthropy or charity, in the ordinary sense of the word.  On the cross Christ willingly suffered for sinners. Those for whom he hung on the cross were not innocent victims of natural disasters; they were bad people, to put it bluntly. He accepted punishment and suffered because of someone else's wrong-doing.

Was it fair that he have to suffer for another person's sins? In our childish human sense of fair, No.
But it is what he did.
Even more miraculously, he did it willingly.

How do we feel when we have to suffer because of someone else's mess? Do we get angry and whine like the four-year old "It's not fair"? Or do we embrace the cross in imitation of Christ?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Our Eastern Brothers and SIsters

Today in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church we celebrate the memorial of St. John Chrysostom. Chrysostom is not is last name but a title he was given because of his eloquent preaching. It means "golden mouthed."

Probably his greatest influence, however, is on the Eastern half of the Church. The Eastern Orthodox and the Byzantine Rites of the Eastern Catholic Churches to this day normally celebrate what is call "The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom." 

More disturbing to our modern sensibilities has been the disputes over the relics of his body.  His head is in Moscow and his right hand on mount Athos. While this may seem strange to us, it speaks of the great devotion to the saint.  A great saint and Father of the Church now. We should remember that in his own lifetime he was scorned and exiled for daring to speak out against what he recognized as corruption among important people of his time.

As we prayer with our eastern brothers and sisters today remembering his life, let us also have the courage to imitate his virtue-the willingness to speak truth to power.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The power of God

In the second reading today, St. Paul reminds us of his former life as Saul of Tarsus, the pharisee dedicated to hunting down members of this new sect of Judaism which we now call Christianity. We know the name of one christian killed at the instigation of Saul. We have no idea how many more there were whose names are not recorded. What we know is that Paul himself looks back on those years, and describes himself as the foremost of sinners.
The first reading we see one option for dealing with such evil, simply destroy it. If God wanted to he could. The exodus story is not one about Moses changing God's mind, but rather God testing Moses. Just as God never intended to have Abraham kill Isaac, God never intended to wipe out his people no matter how badly they sinned.
God's response to sin and evil is not destruction but conversion of heart. Pau's point in recounting the gravity of his own sin is simple. If his heart could be changed, there is no heart that cannot be changed. There is no person alive who is beyond redemption. After all, do we not believe that God is all-powerful?
Does God will the eradication of sin and evil? Yes. But not by simple eradication but by conversion, the changing of hearts by the power of God's grace.

"there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance...there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
- Fr. Wayne

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Nine years have passed since the morning that none of us will forget: four airplanes, 19 hijackers (15 Saudis, 1 Lebanese, 2 from the United Arab Emirates, 1 Egyptian), 2,977 dead from the attacks, 6,807 coalition troops killed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by most estimates, at least 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq alone; And somewhere at its inception it was an idea in the head of one man, one angry idea.

The human mind is one of God's greatest creations. God has shared with us the power to conceive ideas, and to turn those ideas into actions. What we lack is the ability foresee all the consequences of those actions. How much destruction can be the fruit of an single angry thought?

In today's gospel we hear, "A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil." The challenge is that no adult alive today has a heart whose stores are pure good or pure evil. We all live in the middle. As people of faith we are called to constantly clean out the stores in our heart, purging them of hatred, anger, malice, fear, all that is evil-- a call to constant purification. As the confiteor says, we begin with our thoughts, then our words, then what we have done and what have failed to do.

The other metaphor Jesus uses in today's gospel, construction, shows us the key to that purification is a good foundation. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. As Christians, Christ must remain the rock, the foundation at the center of our hearts, from which flows love of God, love of neighbor, and even love of enemy. As St. John tells us, "perfect love drives out fear."

As we mark this ninth anniversary, let us pray the words of the traditional hymn, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."

Friday, September 10, 2010

When being self-centered is good

Almost aways the gsopel challenges us to our attention outside ourselves, toward God and toward our brothers and sisters. The one time when we are as Christian supposed to turn from others to ourselves is when we critique. As the gospel today says, we are to remove the plank from our own eye before we offer to remove the splint from our brother's eye.

With the mid-term elections approaching, I have practically stopped watching the "news." No one in the political sphere seems to have ever heard this gospel. Even when it looks as if they might be self-critical the remark turns.

I am reminded of the saying, "Any apology that contains the word "if" is not really an apology." (I'm sorry if you were offended.) In the same ways no self-criticism that contains the word "but" is really self criticism. (what I did may have been wrong, but...)

The truth is that if we each day occupy ourselves with our own examination of conscience, correcting our own faults, and discerning and doing the will of God; we won't have time to turn a critical eye on anyone else.

- Fr. Wayne

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The slave for the slaves

We celebrate today the life and work of Pedro Claver Calberó, known in English as St. Peter Claver. This Jesuit priest known for is work among the slaves of Cartagena, Colombia was born in Barcelona Spain.
As early as 1537, Pope Paul III had condemned slavery, but it had continued none the less and the port of Cartagena was a center of it.
The conditions under which slaves were transported from Africa were so horrendous that as many as a third might die in transit. One can only imagine the conditions at the port when they arrived.

Today this saint intercedes for us from his place in heaven, and serves as a link between the two great minority communities in the US, the African-American and the Spanish-speaking.

We are also reminded that the scourge of human trafficking still thrives in our world. As Christians, let us pray on this Memorial of Peter Claver that the church not rest until this grave sin against human life is ended.

- Fr. Wayne

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Mary

Nine months after the Immaculate Conception we celebrate today the Birth of the Virgin Mary.  According to tradition she was born in the city of Jerusalem. Our faith says that the unique feature of her birth was that she was born without the stain of original sin.  While this was unique to her, in a sense it is how God works in every life.
God gave Mary the gift she needed to carry out her role in the Kingdom of God, each of us are also born with the gifts we need.  There is no suck thing as a life without purpose. As we celebrate the birth of Mary, the mother of Christ, and the mother of his Body, the church, may each of us strive to carry out the will of god, and carry out our role in God's plan.

This year it happens that we mark the birth of her life, on the same day that our Jewish brothers and sisters mark the beginning of a new year, Rosh Hashana. Let us wish them over these next two days of celebration, Shana Tova.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Imagine the new unemployment

We have arrived at the point in Paul's letter to the Christians in Corinth when he addresses a matter which he considered absolutely scandalous.

How can any one of you with a case against another
dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment
instead of to the holy ones?

It seems that the people in Corinth were suing one another, taking each other to the civil courts rather than taking the matters to the leaders of the church, and Paul finds the whole thing completely unacceptable.

Can we even imagine how few lawyers, and other court officials we would need if every case that involved two baptized persons suddenly disappeared from the dockets of the court systems, particularly in those places that think of themselves as Christian or more specifically Catholic countries.

On a deeper level, today's reading invites us reflect on how many people have been scandalized by the squabbling in their churches, and how many have abandoned Christianity all together because they see so called Christians behaving no differently than those who have no faith at all.

Paul reminds us that we are better than that. We have been given a new life in Christ. We have been rescued, and given a life of grace and each day that light must shine like the sun to bring new life to the world.

- Fr. Wayne

Monday, September 6, 2010

On Labor Day

It is only fitting that on this day, we as Catholics go back to May 22, 1891. it was Pentecost that year, and on that day when we celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Pope Leo XIII issued the first of what would come to be called the social encyclicals. For those unfamiliar with the term an encyclical is a letter intended to be circulated.
In this first Encyclical Rerum Novarum the pope addresses the new relationships created by the industrial age, the success but also the new abuses that arose with factory work.

He writes in the opening that, "It is no easy matter to define the relative rights and mutual duties of the rich and of the poor, of capital and of labor." No truer statement could have been written. In the abstract we understand the fundamental rights and responsibilities of both worker and employee. but in the concrete reality of our daily lives we love the bargain, and try not to think of the nearly slave labor that made it possible.

Today is a good day to go back to Leo XIII his words, (it is not a long document), and pray for workers, not just in our country, but around the world.

In 1991, Pope John Paul II wrote Centesimus Annus to mark the hundredth anniversary of this landmark work.

- Fr. Wayne

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Why are you boasting?

What do you possess that you have not received?

One of the common expressions used today which I find most annoying is, "It's all good", a sentence that is patently not true.Some things are evil, some actions sin, and some things the results of sin. When a child is killed by a drunk driver, that is the result of sin; it's not all good.
What St. Paul teaches us that what we could say that would be true is, "It's all gift." Everything we have is gift from God. We may look at something and say we earned it. We may look at technology and say we created it. But in truth there is nothing in my person, nor in the universe around me that is not gift from God.
Additionally, we received it not to be its owner, but to be its stewart. The one who created it remains the owner.
I have been blessed to travel the world, and I am happy to come home every time. When I was younger I would come home filled with pride, "This is the greatest country in the world." Now instead I come home with gratitude. "Thank you God for the gifts you have given us. May we always use them wisely."
- Fr. Wayne

Friday, September 3, 2010

Not always what we want

Today we celebrate Pope St. Gregory the Great, both a doctor of the Church and one of the Latin Fathers of the church. While volumes have been and could be written about him, one of the things that is most striking in his biography is how he came to be Pope.

While it has always been fashionable to look on the Catholic Church as rife with politics, intrigue, ambition, and scandal ( and sometimes rightly so), Gregory stands in stark contrast to all of that.

He came from a noble family and could have used that to achieve any position he wanted, but what he wanted was to be a monk, to live out his days in the solitude of the monastery. He wanted no part of being Pope, but was by all accounts "forced" to accept the title. He was the first pope to come from a monastic background.

It would be wonderful be to able to say that because he knew it was the will of God, he accepted the papacy with joy and contentment, but that would be a lie. He continued in the first years to bemoan the lose of his monastic life.
But he did his ministry as pope anyway, and that is the key.

He did what God and the church needed him to do, despite the fact that he was not what he wanted to do, or even what he felt called to do. How often do we christians try and dress up our own desires as a calling from God? Sometimes doing God's will requires immersing ourselves in what we perceive to be mere mundane drudgery.

We call him "the great" but at the time from his perspective there was nothing great about it.

Today each us will move through our rather mundane lives, doing the things that need to be done, but we never know what greatness God might see in the simplest of our acts.

- Fr. Wayne

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Belonging to Christ in love

all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

When we hear the verb phrase "to belong to" we think of ownership, possession, and control. This is the fool's use of the word, to use St. Paul's terminology.
Christianity teaches the existence of the free will, and even the concept of hell because God does not wish to posses us in the human foolish sense. As distinct from some eastern philosophies the goal is not a kind of obliteration of the self in the universe or even in God.
"To belong to" for us is to be held in the loving embrace, the way a parent holds their newborn baby. By allowing ourselves to be embraced by God in this way, we become one with God, without the lose of self. "that they may be one, Father, as you and I are one" as Jesus prays in John's gospel. The persons are one and yet distinct.

Hell, the total separation from God, must also exist because we must have the freedom to reject God. We must freely, out of love surrender ourselves, not once but daily, remembering the words of Jesus "into your hands I commend my Spirit." When we allow ourselves to be embraced by God's love, then we, in turn, learn to embrace the goods of the earth with same tender loving care. The world, life, death, the present and the future belong to us, according to saint Paul. How will we hold them?

- Fr. Wayne

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Spiritual Infancy

In today's first reading Paul, in his usual direct fashion tells the people that they are spiritual infants. And what are the characteristics of this spiritual infancy? On the one hand, they claim to belong to Christ, and yet they are still ruled by their egos and focused not on what unites them but on what divides them. President Obama was recent criticized for believing in "collective salvation" and his critics were arguing that Christianity teaches a purely individual salvation.

As usual the truth is both. There is an individual aspect to salvation and a collective, "apart from the Church there is no salvation." Infants baptism, intercessory prayer, mass intentions, confession not just to God but to the priest, the requirement to attend mass on Sundays and Holy Days all point to communal nature of the Christian faith. The Church is the body of Christ and when we are baptized we are united to that body. Our individual good deeds lift up the body; our individual sins wound the body.

Maturing in faith, leaving our spiritual infancy, means moving away from the self, and toward Christ and his body the Church. If Christianity were simply Jesus and I it would be easy. Jesus is perfect. The real challenge of Christianity is that it must be lived in a community of imperfect and often annoying brothers and sisters. Paul's letters remind us that from its inception the church has faced this struggle and yet God grace has and will continue to hold it together as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

- Fr. Wayne

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Man in natural state

the natural man does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God

Some philosophies of the past exalted the "natural man", "the noble savage". In today's first reading, St. Paul reminds us how the gospel runs contrary to our natural inclinations. There are certain survival instincts that are hard wired into us. they served primitive man well. We seek to avoid pain. We seek our own protection and defense. We seek sex to propagate the species. We repeat things that are pleasurable.
In themselves these things are not evil, but misdirected or unchecked they lead to sin. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and properly directed they lead us to God.A true Christian at times must sacrifice pleasure and embrace pain; puts other ahead of self and reserves sexuality for the sacred bond of marriage. All these are contrary to the natural inclination and require the grace of God.

- Fr. Wayne

Location:N 25th St,Richmond,United States

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lord, I love your commands

Which of us likes to be told what to do?
One of the first words we learn to say as children is NO and we cry when we can't have what we want. We call it independence, or freedom.
The paradox of the gospel is that we are created for union with God, and the only true path to freedom is surrender,"thy will be done." Only by coming, not only to accept what God commands us to do, but to embrace it and love it do we find freedom that gives us lives of peace and joy.
God built us and only God knows precisely how the body mind and soul are meant to work in union with grace and the Holy Spirit to produce the perfect result, the peace of Christ which is beyond all understanding.

- Fr. Wayne

Sunday, August 29, 2010

God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
The refrain from today's responsorial psalm.
You can't turn on the news these days without seeing news about housing and the economy. We are blessed at St. Patrick's to be in a neighborhood that is experiencing a revitalization. While we celebrate, not just the psalm but the gospel today reminds us that we cannot loose sight of the poor in our midst.

All to often revitalization in reality means displacing the poor as the housing in the neighborhood is replaced with housing that they can no longer afford to live in. We confuse the criminal with the poor and we mistakenly believe that to rid the neighborhood of one we must rid the neighborhood of the other.

We pray for the poor, but our prayer is reminiscent of the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof. When asked, "Rabbi, is there a blessing for the tsar?", he responds, "May the good Lord bless and keep the tsar (pause) far away from us."

We should never forget that St. Patrick's was founded by poor, unwelcome, Irish immigrants.

- Fr. Wayne

Location:N 25th St,Richmond,United States

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Holy and Sanctified

From my childhood growing up as a non-Catholic I remember hearing the phrase "holy and sanctified" and it was often used in a somewhat mocking tone in reference to our Pentecostal Holiness brothers and sisters. As we see. In today's first reading, Paul addresses his 1st Letter to the church in Corinth "to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy."
It is worth noting that he speaks of sanctification in the past tense,"have been sanctified" and then looks forward with "called to be holy."
We are sanctified by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which we are full participants in by virtue of our baptism.
Paul's instruction to us is, then act like it. We are "called to be holy." This call to holiness is a daily call to every Christian. It must be rooted in prayer, daily conversation with Christ, that will then direct our actions.
Being holy doesn't mean constant seriousness and lack of fun. On the contrary, when we truly understand the incredible gifts God has given us we can find beauty joy and fun all around us and we can live stress free. Email lasts for ever. Practically every phone has a camera, and google logs your every search. But if you're living a holy life it doesn't matter. Holy and Sanctified and Happy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Catholics know the Bible

There is this mythology that Catholics don't know the Bible. The Catholic liturgy is replete with texts from the Bible. In fact almost every word said at Mass is a Bible quote and our lectionary cycle insures that hear not just the parts of the Bible we like the most but the parts that challenge us as well. Even the simple greeting at the beginning of mass is taken from those used by Paul in his letters, as in today's first reading.
Knowing chapter and verse numbers is not what makes us better Christians, but living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

-Fr. Wayne Ball

Monday, August 9, 2010

Slippery Slopes of morality

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta neé Edith Stein. Born to a Jewish family in what was then part of the German Empire, she converted to Christianity and entered the Carmelite order.
The National Socialists Party came to rise in a time of political and economic crisis, and slowly without most ordinary Germans being aware developed into what we think of when we hear the word Nazi. Their initial steps seems reasonable and logical.
They did not begin by exterminating Jews. They began to slowly redefine who was really German.
In the end being born in the empire was not enough to make her German, and by their new strict standards her baptism did not make her Christian. Slowly over time they had refined German to mean only people like them, and in their eyes she was a filthy Jew foreigner. She was picked up, deported and died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
Today we turn to St Teresa and pray that through her intercession every shadow of racism may be eradicated from our world.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

If such mighty deeds had been seen...

In today's gospel we see Jesus in an unusually angry mood, frustrated over the lack of proper response to the wonders they had seen.
Having just returned from Costa Rica, I was once again truly disturbed at the living conditions of so many people, and it is clearly getting worse and we have become so focused on ourselves so don't even see what is a two and half hour flight away.
We have become so accustomed to living with surplus we think we have a right to it, and fear loosing it. I am not yet 50 and grew up with one car and one bathroom. How many of us would be content and thankful to God if that was our state today? Even in the present economy we are still living better than most of the world and want more, and rail if we the we are going to have to give up any of what we have.
Instead we should thank God for the AC, the grocery story down the street, the ability to drink the water out of the tap, the electricity that works every day, and the hundreds of other little things most of the world doesn't have.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Be shrewd as serpants

"be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves"

While simple as doves may go down easily with us and fit nicely with our image of Jesus, we must also not forget the first half of the command.

Here we sit in the communication age, in the 21st century, with the tools to reach and move the entire planet and it is safe to say that your average company puts more time energy money thought study and resources into marketing toilet paper that the Catholic Dioceses of our country put into Evangelization, "marketing" the gospel to an increasingly unchurched population.
Are the mormons the only ones capable of putting together a TV commercial with high production values?
How many dioceses have even a communication office that does more than react to bad news or publish a newspaper, the modern equivalent of 8 track tape and LP's.
Today's gospel reminds us how gifted we are. We know how to get people's attention and move them. Billions are spent each year to convince people to buy what they don't need. Should we not avail ourselves of the same tools to convince people to buy into what they most need, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 5, 2010

God's love for us

Having just celebrated a wedding this weekend here in Costa Rica, I am particularly struck by the first reading.
Do we really believe in the depths of our hearts that God's love for us was, is, and always will be like the love of a newlywed.
As we will see in Hosea, even when we are unfaithful God remains head over heals in love with us.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence - gift from God

There are those who would claim that the framers of the Constitution, by not repeating the references to God found in the declaration, intentionally rejected God as the foundation
of our nation. Today, however, no one can read the words of the Declaration of Independence and fail to see that the freedom we celebrate today was and is a gift from God.
On this day they proclaimed a fundamental belief in that God not only created humanity, but endowed that humanity with rights which no human source should deny, a belief that above human law there exists natural law against which all human law must be judged and at times found wanting.
Among the hamburgers, hot dogs, beer, and fireworks, let us not forget to stop at some point and say from the bottom of our hearts, "Thank God."

Friday, July 2, 2010

True Evagelization

"Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.

How seriously do we take this quote in the Catholic Church?
As I visit the churches here in Costa Rica I am struck by the contrast between the wide variety of persons at mass here and the homogenous freshly scrubbed look of the average American congregation. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, I thank God for the incredible blessings he has bestowed on us. At the same time this gospel reminds us that we do not have to look far to see those who have no been the beneficiaries of these blessing: those who have yet to break free from poverty, alcohol, drugs, etc.
Our cities are replete with these people but do we really want them filling our pews on Sunday?
At times I fear that we would rather watch our churches grow old and empty and ultimately be closed than fill them with "the wrong kind of people."
Today's gospel reminds us that we are the Church of the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, and as such we are called not simply to rail against sickness in our society but to actually do all in our power to cure every person in need of healing.
If Christ is the physician then every church building must be the hospital. The spiritual ER for the community.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


...glorified God who had given such authority to men.

The final words of today's gospel.
Much has happened in recent years to undermine our confidence in human authorities both inside and outside the church. We can easily become disillusioned and cynical.
God did give authority to those who would lead his church so that they could carry out the mission given to them and their failures in life cannot diminish that authority any more than our failures can diminish the dignity God has given to us.
Let us pray especially for those who are called to be the leaders, our bishops that God will grant them the strength and wisdom to constantly imitate Christ in the exercise of that authority.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I"m back

After a long Hiatus, the blog is back. I have moved into the house at St. Patrick's and with the church just next door am already thinking about what we might be able to offer at the church for the neighborhood. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,

One of the challenges of our faith at present is that over the last few decades we seem to have reduced the Gospel to one idea, "love." While the commandment to love one another is at the center of the gospel, or ir's foundation, whichever metaphor suits you best, it is not the entire gospel. 
In modern English the world love has been reduced to almost meaningless, we say we "love" our family members, dogs, food, sports and even TV shows.
Just demands more of us than just being "nice" and liking others, and there are more commandments in the bible than just the ten, specifically the ones given by Jesus. We overlook them because they are not in a list, they are scattered throughout the gospels.

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"- is an imperative
The dialogue in answer to the question "How many times must I forgive?" - is not a suggestion

Love in the gospel is not reduced to a feeling, but is manifest in concrete actions toward others which Jesus commands us to do.
Each time we hear the gospels read we should listen for the sometimes subtle but necessary commandments within.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Continued Expansion of the Church

British writer Charles Wentworth Dike once quipped, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
For the last few years we have seen in the press lots of statistics that would suggest that the Catholic Church in America is in decline: huge numbers of Catholics leaving the church, etc.  A more careful analysis by CARA at Georgetown would point out that, our exit numbers are huge because we are huge. The good news, however, is that the Catholic Church's retention rate (the percentage of those who grew up Catholic who still self identify as adult Catholics) is higher than any religious groups but the Jews, and Mormons.
Does this mean we should abandon the New Evangelization? No! What it means is that there is a reason to remain filled with joy over what has been accomplished in the two millennia.   

In the first reading we continue to hear how St. Paul expanded the church to include all peoples.  Each of us must continue that mission in two ways: inviting those who have not truly heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, and reaching out to those are by virtue of their baptism truly members of our Church but have drifted (or sometimes run) away from the practice of that faith.

We are still the largest religious group in America.  Let us hold on to the Matt 16:18
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why don't we see more miracles?

In the first reading today we see what most readers of the Bible would call a miracle, a seismologist would call it an earthquake, others a coincidence.
 As I talk to those who finding themselves doubting the Bible and their faith, often one of the things you here is "Why don't we see miracles like the ones in the Bible today?" I would argue that in fact we do, we simply often have the wrong concept of a miracle.
Most people when you say miracle think of some flashy violation of the laws of physics, like the parting of the Red Sea as depicted in the movies. What we need to realize is that, at its foundation, a miracle is a miracle because in the event someone has a profound experience of the presence of God. The account in the first reading today includes no "special effects" (lights, voices, etc.). It is a simple earthquake, but in the ordinary geological event, the apostle, the jailer, and who knows how many others, encounter God.

May each of us today, keep our eyes open for the miracles in our life.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The spirit of truth

In these last two weeks of Easter the readings turn our attention to the coming of the Holy Spirit. While many titles are given in the gospels, in today's gospel it is the Spirit of truth that seems worth reflection. In a world where anyone with a computer (and/or camera and microphone) can be a publisher or broadcaster and any of them can call themselves and their sites Catholic, what do we trust?

The simplest advice stick to the actual sources:;;; and of course your local parish websites.

Don't believe everything you read or even everything that claims to be Catholic.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Pilgrimage Continues

It's my first morning back in the U.S., and I can tell you I am only beginning to comprehend how the pilgrimage in the Holy Land has reshaped not just my priesthood but the most basic parts of my faith, and my understanding of that part of the world.  It will be days, weeks and probably years before I fully comprehend its impact.
From the time we boarded the plain in New York the most noticeable group were of course the Hasidic Jews.  What most struck me on the flight over was their determination to gather for prayer. It seemed every time they were about to gather in the back of the plane they would be told to sit for one reason or another (it's time to serve dinner, etc.) They were indomitable and eventually an announcement was made that the men would be gathering in the area of the back galley.
And the gathered to worship God, because it is their duty.

I could not help but think, "Would that we Christians had that same relentless zeal to, no matter what else is going on in our lives, stop each day to worship God." As our present translation of the mass says, "It is right to give him thanks and praise."

In our Christian faith it lives on in its most formal sense in the Liturgy of the Hours, but most Catholics think that is for priest and religious alone.  The truth is that it has only been slowly over time that marking of the beginning and end of the day with prayer has eroded from Christian practice.  Our Jewish and Islamic brothers continue to mark each day with prayer, recognizing that each new day is gift from God. Perhaps we need to join them.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Finally in Jerusalem and real internet

We are finally in Jerusalem and have real internet. When I get back I will have to post a series of entries to talk about the previous days.  Today as always was a whirlwind.  We started off in Cana at the place Jesus first miracle.  The most surprising piece was to see what a wine jar of the time would have looked like.  Nothing like what I would have imagined. Then we end the day at the house of Caiphus.
I continue to play for the people of both my parishes and other friends at each site.  Today in Bethlehem I picked up crosses for all the children making their first communion as well.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cana and Nazareth

Would be blogging but expensive Internet here. Look for full reports when I return.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The welcoming of the Gentiles

It is easy for us as 21st Century Christians to fail to appreciate the historic significance of where we are in the reading of the Acts of the Apostles.  Throughout the life of Jesus and until this point in the story what we now call Christianity was merely a sect of Judaism with no sense of being or ever becoming a unique religion of its own,  and no desire on the part of many disciples change. The idea that the gentiles would ever "take over" was crazy.

To understand the mixture of feelings in the community, we have only to look at the feelings of Catholics in the US as the Catholic Church shifts from being white western European, or European, to Latino or Hispanic.  On the one hand parishes are glad to have the numbers, on the other hand the lose of control, change in language and custom causes great anger and confusion.  I recently read an article about angry parishioners in Pennsylvania going so far as to call the closing of Eastern European Catholic Churches as "ethnic cleansing." Nevermind  the fact that the churches in question are all but empty and there is no new way of immigrants from those countries to fill them. Such logic is lost.

In our heads we can quote the gospels about love and unity, but in our hearts the desire to cling to  what we think is rightfully ours takes over.  We forget that it is not "our Church" or even less "my Church"  The Church belongs to God and in every time and place it changes according to his will.
 The Hebrew church Jesus founded transformed into the Greek speaking, and later into the Latin based church we think of in the US as the predominately Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church, the Holy Spirit continues to transform us, until the return of Christ.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I will not reject anyone who comes to me

Of the changes to the English translation of Mass coming, among the most surprising may be the change of the text for the consecration of the wine "for you and for all" will become "for you and for many."
The reality is that the Latin has not changed. It was always "pro multis." Some mistakenly will see in this a sense of Jesus not dying for all, or the church rejecting some. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In reality it is an acknowledgement of free will. While Christ rejects noone, but there are those who can and will reject God. Our relationship with God is one of love and love can never be forced. It must be freely given and accepted.
Christ died for the salvation of all and we
pray that all will accept that gift.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

whoever comes to me will never hunger

As many of you know, I own a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, they are a beautiful breed of dog, with only two problems that I have encountered in these 10 years. The first is that they shed incessantly, messy but not deadly. The second problem is that they will, if allowed, eat incessantly, literally until they become so obese they die.  As  his master I control what he eats because he can't. He lacks the gifts of intellect and will God has given to us as human beings.

Reports now suggest that 1 in 3 children in the US are overweight or obese, and as of January 2009 the number of obese Americans actually exceeded those who are merely overweight. This usually gets addressed from either a physical or mental health perspective, but I would suggest that there is a spiritual component as well.

We try to fill the spiritual void in our life with food, when it is an anthropological fact that human beings are spirit and matter, body and soul; and only there is a void in us that can only be filled by God. We need to fill it with prayer, we need to fill it with the grace of the sacraments especially the Eucharist.

In today's gospel Jesus states as simple fact "whoever comes to me will never hunger."  The problem is some people read this as a once in a lifetime event.  The reality is that we have keep coming to him, keep asking "Give us this day our daily bread."  Like the manna in the desert the people were required to go back day after day to be fed by God.

The next time we reach of the physical food we don't need stop, and ask yourself, "Would I be better of just taking a minute to pray for spiritual food?" Unlike the dog, we have the intellect to know the truth and the freedom to choose rightly.

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Back

I've been away for to long. I was reminded that it was time to get back to the blog. Stay tuned for regular posts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prayer and Forgiveness

Of the 7 petitions in the Our Father, only one do we ask God to grant on a conditional basis. That one is forgiveness. We ask not for unlimited forgiveness which would correspond to unconditional love, but we ask God to limit his forgiveness and to make it like our own.
Once again God puts us in charge of our life.  Can we still receive unlimited forgiveness? Sure it's simple. All we have to do is be willing to forgive everyone who has hurt us. Then that same boundless mercy will be ours.

Time and again I hear people say, "I don't believe in hell", or "I don't believe in a God that would send anyone to hell." Does hell exist?  It must. In order for us to freely choose to love God we must also have the freedom to reject God. If there is no hell, there is no free will.

The greatest power God has given us is the power to choose.
May he give is the wisdom and prudence to think before we make our choices today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What happened to 1251?

Today is the first of the abstinence days in the season of Lent.  All persons who are at least 14 years old are required to abstain from meat While the requirement to Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday stops at age 60, abstinence does not.
In all of this the canon that seems to have gotten lost was 1251.  "Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday." Some where along the way Americans got the idea that it was only during Lent.

Are you allowed to eat meat on other Fridays, yes, on the condition that you "substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety" (canon 1253)

In the first reading today Isaiah deals with those whose penitential practices don't really change their lives. How will we be different?  When this Lent is over will we really have experienced some true conversion in our lives or will we simply fall back into the old habits and go back to the way we were? The choice belongs to each of us.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is God all-powerful?

A question the Old Testament struggled with in this sense. If God is all-powerful then everything even evil must come from God: as punishment, or trial, etc.

The New Testament again asks us to balance two truths. One the one hand we believe in an all powerful God. On the other we believe that because his greatest desire is for us to freely accept his love and love him in return he gives us free will. Sin is the result of a choice we make to misuse some good gift of God's.

In the first reading today, as we prepare for lent, James reminds us that it is good things, and not things like tempation that come from God.  We are tempted by our own desires." Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above."

In a world where we immediately look for someone to blame for everything, can we have the courage,  in this season of Lent, to turn the scorching light of truth on ourselves, and examine how we use each of the many good gifts that have been given to us by God, from our individual bodies to our global resources and environment?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

World Day of the Sick

Today throughout the world the Church celebrates, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the 18th annual World Day of the Sick. Rather than try to outdo the Pope I would invite you to read Pope Benedict XVI's message for today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Today in particular we celebrate with the female side of the Benedict family as they celebrate the feast day of their foundress, St. Scholastica.  She was the sister of St. Benedict and establised a community of nuns. After her brother went to Monte Cassino, where he established his famous monastery, she took up her abode in the neighborhood at Plombariola, where she founded and governed a monastery, about five miles from that of St. Benedict, who, it appears, also directed his sister and her nuns. 

For almost 16 centuries women have continued that tradition. Here in the diocese of Richmond we have a community of Benedictine Sisters in Bristow, Virginia and Trappistines (who are an off-shoot of the Benedictines) in Crozet, Virginia.

Today we pray in a special way for these communities, and in a special way for all women who have embraced the consecrated life. Let  us pray that more women will open there hearts, and have the courage to embrace this form of total self-giving to God.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Where does God dwell?

 In the first reading today,  Solomon proclaims, " The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud;
I have truly built you a princely house, a dwelling where you may abide forever.” Solomon could've had no idea however that God had another plan. God had already built the temple that  he intended to be his ultimate dwelling place. he had built this dwelling place on the sixth day of creation, and when he looked at it, he saw that it was "very good."

 Would he inhabit this dwelling place immediately? In a way. We believe that in every human being there is a divine spark. But it would not be until the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the  dwelling place which God had built for himself so long ago would be fully inhabited.

Two thousand years later, every human being is still given the opportunity to be the "princely house" that  Solomon proclaimed. From the moment that we receive the sacrament of baptism we become that "holy of holies"  as the Holy Spirit comes to rest on each of us, and  God indeed does abide with us forever.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

St. Paul Miki

Paulo Miki was born and raised in a rich family in Takatsuki, Japan. He later joined the Jesuits. The Japanese government feared the Jesuit's influences and persecuted them. St. Paul Miki was jailed, along with others. He and his Catholic peers were forced to the 555 miles from Kyoto to Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity. There St. Paul Miki was crucified on 5 February 1597.

St. Francis Xavier had been the first of the missionaries to arrive in 1549 to Japan, when the country was in the midst of civil war.  At first they had been welcomed and even given land.  The Japanese language proved a great impediment, and the work of the missionaries became enmeshed in the struggle between Spain and France for domination in Asia. The people and the government turned on them  and today Japan is still only 2% Christian, but one beacon of that presence is Sophia, the Jesuit University in Tokyo.

Christianity has struggled from its beginnings with its relationship to politics and the balance of Mark 12:17 "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" and there is no simple answer. We are called to be involved in the problems of the world, and that requires political action. And yet, the Church cannot be seen as being allied to any particular political party.  This requires that as individuals and as groups we continuously allow the truth of the gospel to critique our political positions.

May the intercession of St. Paul Miki aid us as we continue that work.

Friday, February 5, 2010

St. Agatha

As we celebrate Black History Month, we may not have taken note that January was Anti-Human Trafficing month and February 1 national Freedom Day.
Today's saint, Agatha, is the story of a woman who was taken hostage, tortured, abused, and finally killed because of her rejection of the sexual advances of a powerful man.
Today, slavery, more politely called human trafficking, is still alive and well even in the U.S. Worldwide it is projected to include 600-800 thousand people, and here in the U.S. some 14-17 thousand people. Some sources project that there are more slaves in the US today than when Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation, many of whom are held in the sex trade.
On this the feast of St. Agatha, let us remember all those who are being abused and the prayer of St. Agatha

Saint Agatha, you suffered sexual assault and indignity because of your faith. Help heal all those who are survivors of sexual assault and protect those women who are in danger. Amen

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I am going the way of all flesh

The words of David in the first reading this morning, and we continue to use this expression without stopping to think how Christ radically transformed the meaning of these words.

At the time David uttered them with a sense that he was passing out of existence.  When Jesus rose from the dead we do not believe that his mortal body remained in the tomb, and some ghostly figure rose from the dead, as it is often depicted in movie. We believe that all of Jesus rose from the dead.

In the same way the Catechism of Catholic Church state unequivocally that "The 'resurrection of the flesh' (the literal formulation of the Apostles' Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our 'mortal body' will come to life again." (CCC 990)

How should this impact my life today? I should see my body not as something disposable, but as an integral part of who I am and a precious gift from God.  Everything choice about what I do to or with my body should keep this truth in the forefront of my mind.

For a Christian, "the way of all flesh" should mean the way to resurrection and eternal life. May we live each moment on that path.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

St. Blaise

In the fourth century, in Sabastea, Armenia (today Sivas, Turkey), a physician named Barsegh (Blaise) was chosen by acclamation to be the Bishop. Of the many people he is said to have cured, the most enduring of the stories, is that of a woman whose child had a fish bone stuck in his throat who was immediately, miraculously healed.  It was during the reign of the emperor, Valerius Licinianus Licinius that a persecution of Christians took place in the area. The Bishop was beaten with iron combs used at the time for carding wool, and then beheaded.

In eariy art he was depicted with the wool combs and it was only later, with his feast day being placed on the day after The Feast of the Presentation when we bless candles, that the iconography began to depict him with candles, and the tradition developed that on this day we would bless throats using candles, blessed the previous day and  held in the shape of a cross.  Present practice uses the words : Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shadows and Light

Punxsutawney Phil, makes his appearance today and we wait to see. Will he see his shadow or not? Or to put the question another way, will it be shadow or light? If he sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter. If the light wins out, winter will soon end.

Groundhog day is another of the great "marriages" between the pagan and the Christian. Why is ground hog day February 2? Because it's the Feast of the Presentation or Candlemas Day. It is the day we celebrate announcement by Simeon that Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."  In honor of that light, it is the day we bless candles, the constant reminders in our tradition that Christ is the light that the darkness cannot overcome.

By now most of us are  tired of winter and this year seems to have been as gray as any ever have been  here in Richmond. We yearn for the sun.  As Christians, however, we know that whatever happens in PA this morning we carry the light of Christ within us. On this Candlemas day, let us be that light to all we encounter.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The voice we don't want to hear.

Today we continue to follow David as his kingdom falls apart. The people have abandoned his leadership for that of Absalom (the father of peace). David heads out toward a village that is east of Jerusalem, near that Mount of Olives.  Despite the fact that David is king and has his soldiers with Shimei dares to say out loud what David already knows, that he is a murderer.

To his credit David has the wisdom to recognize that perhaps this man is sent by God,  It would have been easy for him to simply have him killed to shut him up or dismiss him as crazy.  None of us wants to be reminded of our sin. And rarely do we want to listen to those who disagree with us. There are times in all our lives when we need a Shemei, the person who will speak the truth we don't want to hear, even if it hurts. Are we truly open to hearing the truth in whatever form it comes?

Sadly, this was only a moment of wisdom, because in the end David will order Shemei killed (1 Kings 2:8-9) for insulting him. Are there people we are angry with because they have spoken some truth?

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Impact of Fame and Authority

The first reading today shocks almost no one. We have seen so many such stories we become immune to the impact. Has the world become a worse place, no. On the contrary, if one is a student of history, one realizes immediately that the world has become a much more civilized place as the Christian faith has spread. What makes it feel worse is that sin that used to be a very private matter is now broadcast all day everywhere.
We can go back in our own nation's history at least as far as Jefferson to find adultery through a host of political figures to the most recent case of Tiger Wood. What they all have in common is that there power and fame exacerbation a tendency that can take place in any person, the tendency to explain away our sin.
While we look judgmentally on these famous people, we can forget that Lust is not the only sin that was considered dead there are six others:
Pride (judging others), Greed, Envy, Anger , Gluttony, and Sloth (Apathy)

The key for all of is that we recogize in ourselves when we begin to explain away the small sins before they grow, and the sins we explain away with "Everybody does it."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blogging from the Capitol

Both bishops are here and children and adults from both dioceses.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Abandonment by God

but I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul,
whom I removed from my presence.

Is is possible for a person to be abandoned by God? We can certainly feel at times abandoned by God.

This is a question that people have wrestled with since the beginning, and the earliest awareness of the presence of God. Many including our ancestors understood God in this way, as seen in this passage from today's first reading--- Another reason why we must be careful when we simply pull verses from the bible and forget that as Christians the Old Testament must be seen through the lens of the New Testament, and how the new covent not only fulfilled but expanded the old.

With the "new and everlasting covenant" in Christ, we are no longer simply "God's people" but truly become God's children. This means among other things that we cannot be abandoned by God. Even in the case of moral sin God does not "remove us from his presence." On the contrary, mortal sin, and indeed hell itself is an act of our free will. We can of our own free will separate ourself from God, but God will never separate himself from us. No more that any other child can stop being a related to their parent.

The truth was most recently underscored when the Holy Father, altered the Code of Canon striking for several canons the phrase "left the Church by a formal act." Once you are baptized, you are a child of God and a member of the Church. This cannot be undone. Even when you are forbidden to come to the table of the Lord (excommunication), you remain a member of the family.

As for hell, permenant separation from God. This too must be something that is not imposed on us by a loving God, but something we choose by a full and free act of the will. According to the Catechism of Catholic Church this permanent separation from God can only result from "a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end." Until the last nanosecond of our life, God is the Father of the prodigal son waiting to embrace us and welcome us home.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Conversion of St. Paul

A figure that often gets lost is one of the figures that we should know from history, Gamaliel. There can be know doubt of how well St. Paul was formed in the law, because the first reading today tells us of how he studied at the feet of Gamaliel.

Gamaliel is considered to be one of the greatest teachers of the Jewish faith. In the Mishna he is referred to with the title Rabban, the Head of the Sanhedrin. And it is he who is credited during the fight over how to deal with the followers of Jesus with saying "if the Gospel be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, you will not be able to overthrow it"

He was right. It has not been overthrown, and despite sometimes horrific errors in our past, we have brought Jewish/Christian relations to good place in our time. There is still much that we can learn from the study of our parent faith. As we celebrate St. Paul's conversion, let us also take moment today to show reverence for Gamaliel and the formation that prepared St. Paul for this moment.