Sunday, February 14, 2010


Mark 7: 31-37

In this healing miracle there is something that speaks to each of us. The man cannot speak or hear. If you are deaf from birth, your speech will be affected. You cannot hear words; much less learn to speak them. What does Jesus touch first? He touches the man's ears. Then Jesus touches the man's tongue. Jesus says, "Be opened." That is let the man's ears be open to hear. Part of this miracle is that the man can suddenly talk as well, with no trouble.

I think that Jesus touched the ears first because we have to learn to listen before we can speak. This is why Jesus tells him and his friends to tell no one. Why? Because if they don't learn to listen to Jesus and his message first, they will just blab about Jesus the miracle worker. Jesus the miracle worker does not require us to do much of anything. But the message of Jesus and his cross/resurrection requires a response on our part.

I think that my vocation as a priest requires me to listen to people before I speak. Priests are supposed to be pastors, not school professors. In school the teacher tells you things and you listen. The professor does not first spend much time listening to you. The professor wants to get some material across and you are supposed to give it back in a test with some thinking on your part. I don't see myself as a professor with a body of knowledge you have to know. I see myself as someone who needs to listen to people so I know how to respond to their needs.

It seems that Jesus spent thirty somewhat "silent" years before he began to teach. Maybe he was listening?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

LUKE 5: 1-11


ISAIAH 6: 3-8

FEBRUARY 7, 2010

Jabba, the dog with whom I live when I am in Boulder, Colorado, continues to teach me, or rather God teaches me through Jabba. About mid-October last year, I left Boulder for California. I was gone six weeks. So there were no walks with Jabba that whole time. When I returned it was winter in Boulder, with snow, cold and icy sidewalks. It was unsafe and uncomfortable for me to go walking with Jabba, so I told myself. This went on into mid-January. Though I had now not walked Jabba for three months, each day, when I would put on my coat to go out, she would come up to me in hopeful expectation. I thought, "What a dumb dog!" I showed her a calendar with all the months I did not walk her. "Doesn't she get it?" I asked myself. There will be no walking with the dog.

Then I had a revelation. Jabba was teaching me something about God. Jabba does not dwell on the past. Each day is filled with new hope for her that things will go well. She does not hold onto past negativity, or being ignored. She is ever hopeful. God does not dwell on our past. We do, but God does not. We hold onto grudges and resentments. We live in too much shame and guilt. We let past negative events control today, the present moment. God ignores our past and is ever hopeful we will accept today's grace, and that good things will begin to happen.

Look at the three examples in today's readings. Isaiah is a young man, but already he is well aware of his faults, especially with his mouth. Maybe he has gossiped, talked about others behind their back, been judgmental or sworn a lot. He feels the closeness of God and says, "This is not a good thing!" Isaiah sees God as coming to punish him for the mess of Isaiah's life. But God sends an angel to touch the lips of Isaiah and the mess is removed. God has a job for Isaiah NOW. But Isaiah has to get into the present moment and not dwell on the past. God wants to send Isaiah on a mission to tell the people something. Isaiah is in the present moment when he says, "Here I am." Not I was or will be, but I am. Grace can work only in the "I am" moment. It does not fix up the past, or make a future. God is the "I Am" God. Just ask Moses at the burning bush when he asked God, "Who are you?" God said, "I Am."

Now look at Paul in First Corinthians. He recalls his wretched past when he persecuted Christians. But he does not dwell there. He does not let the past keep him from being open to God's grace. Paul says, "By the grace of God I am what I am." He is a changed man. God does not dwell on Paul's past. So why should Paul stay back there?

Finally, look at Peter in the Gospel. As a professional fisherman, who is tired and frustrated from the past night, he is reluctant to lower his net for "a carpenter." But the great catch of fish focuses Peter on his lack of faith and hope. Jesus just brushes this off. "Do not be afraid," is how Jesus puts it. "From now on," Jesus says, as he focuses on the present moment, Peter will be catching people not fish.

Now where is our focus? Do we focus on our shortcomings, imperfections, wrongdoings, to the point that we cannot begin to be open to the optimism of God's grace? God knows that we are imperfect. But God not only continues to love us but also has plans for us this day. Once we are baptized we are always useful to God with all the Gifts and Fruits of the Spirit. We get that indelible mark on our spiritual innards, our soul. The Spirit is Love. Divine love does not go away, but it also does not live in the past or the future of our life. It took a dog to wake me up to this. God is ever at work in my life.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Travel Lightly

Mark 6: 7-13

I finally figured out why Jesus told the Twelve to travel so
lightly. If they don't have much, then the street person will ignore
them, for the Twelve have nothing to give. The rich will not try to
hobnob with the Twelve because it improves no social status. This
leaves the Twelve to preach repentance and to heal with oil, that is,
do sacraments.

This is what priests are supposed to do, but we get all caught up in
social service work and social events. If we looked not much
different than a beggar, would beggars have anything to do with us?
It is because we do have much accumulated, "our stuff", that people
perceive us as able to fix social inequalities. It is because we
like to have a good social standing, that we tend to seek a social
status with those we perceive as "already there." We shy away from
saying anything that would offend. We don't challenge, much less
preach repentance, or "change your life." I wonder if our call is to
be discomforting, before we can be comforting. If so, I suspect we
will be shaking a lot of dust from our feet, and the invitations will
be few.