Sunday, March 31, 2013

Two Swords

Why two swords in Luke 22: 38?  Those were the two swords that were carried by the two people on the road to Emmaus, later on in this Gospel.  They carried swords out of fear.  Their hopes had been dashed.  They were on their own, abandoned or abandoning the community back in Jerusalem.  Jesus came to them.  He opened the scriptures to them and gave them the Eucharist.  Word and sacrament mean that we have Jesus with us and do not need to protect ourselves with the sword.  Fear isolates and prevents us from proclaiming good news, or being good news for that matter.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Women's Feet

The Pope washed women's feet on the Holy Thursday liturgy.  It made CNN World News.  The media is fascinated by the gospel...when it is truly lived.  Talk is cheap.  We can talk the talk from the pulpit.  Walk the walk and even CNN is interested.  The religious right is much less enthusiastic.  For years we Paulists have taken flack for washing women's feet on Holy Thursday.  It feels nice to finely say, "Well, the Pope does it."

Friday, March 29, 2013


In Luke 22: 30-32, one of the disciples takes a sword and cuts off the ear of a person who was part of the opposition's cohort.  Jesus rejects violence by the sword.  He heals the man's ear.  Jesus says that you cannot use violence against those who oppose your religion with another religion.  What happened?  Christians and Moslems used the sword a lot on those who opposed them.  Someone did not get the memo.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spy Wednesday

Yesterday was Spy Wednesday, in rememberance of Judas, who betrayed Jesus.  Everyone seems to know the name of this fellow Judas.  He hung himself, after betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and came to a tragic end.  On the other hand, in Matthew 26: 14-25, there is a fellow simply called, "a man" who has a room where Jesus and his friends will celebrate the Passover.  This anonymous guy, who no one seems to remember his name, was helpful, obedient, generous with his house, but a no name.

Today I am 70.  Do I want to be the center of attention?  The focus?  Humm.  Would I feel badly if people around me made no mention of my birthday?  Forgot my name?  If so, I might be in good company, so long as I too am helpful, obedient to God's will and generous with what I have.  Judas or Anonymous?  I prefer to be Anonymous and in the Kingdom of friendship with God.  Sometimes, having your name remembered is not such a good thing.  Who ever names their kid "Judas?"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Turning 70

When I wake up tomorrow I will be 70 years old.  I don't feel anything differently than today, my last day in my 60s.  I thought that by 70 I would be wiser or smarter or more even tempered, as in tranquil.  It is not happening.  Each day seems to be an effort to back away from bad behavior, idiocy, and silliness.  Maybe someday, in backing away from bad behavior I will stumble or fall into "eternal life" as Jesus called it.  Not the life after death so much as a quality or depth of life this side of the grave.  I would like both.  I am running slower each year.  The physical demise is a constant.  The rest is optional, if you believe in grace.  I do believe in grace, amazing grace!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Passion

In the Gospel of Luke, 22: 35-38, Jesus tells his disciples that they must wear sandals and carry a purse now, whereas in the past missioning, they did not have to have either.  Why now?  When they went out the first time, the cross had not happened in Jesus' life.  They spoke about the kingdom being in the midst of the people and the miracles and headings of Jesus and their own headings, were signs.  People gladly took them into their homes because this was all good news: no ore suffering!  But the next time the disciples go out, they will have to talk about the cross.  People will reject this teaching.  Messiahs don't suffer.  People want an easier way to holiness.  People will reject the disciples and not give them hospitality.  So the disciples will need to find their own lodging in some out of the way rough ground places.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Lady Ga Ga dresses in outrageous outfits full of lace, color, design and style.  But underneath this, she is a nice Italian Catholic girl from New Jersey.  Now if she came to an agent and tried to sing a song with a simple outfit, she might be dismissed.  Too ordinary.  No flash.  Nothing distinct.  What a business, this entertainment field.  She figured it out.  Now, some complain that the Cardinals dress in all kinds of lace, color and style, that is so medieval.  Actually, I don't think medieval when I see them.  I think Lady Ga Ga.  If the same Cardinal came out in simple shirt and pants, would you take him seriously?  A novelty at best, but then so yesterday's news story.  Why complain about the way high church officials dress?  We get what we ask for.  Kings and queens figured this out long ago.  But now, they are pretty extinct, no?  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Marriage Word

Why not let the heterosexuals keep the marriage word for their unions.  They have made a mess of it anyway.  Of the 50% that do stay together, many of those are simply a man and a woman who tolerate one another as they go about cobbling a life of other activities and friendships.  Occasionally they do something together that they both enjoy.  Sounds kind of grim?  You say that is not your marriage?  You are in the minority.  It may be a hopeful minority, but a minority none the less.  I have heard the whimsical quote, "Marriage is the tomb of love."  I used to think that if people married they would stay together, be happier, and more committed.  The numbers don't support this.  So you gay and lesbians, go find another word.  The marriage word seems to have lost some power for happiness.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

State Support

One reason that churches in Europe get government financial support is so that the clergy do not have to rely on being "popular" with the congregation in order to survive financially.  Clergy want to be   able to preach the gospel even if people are uncomfortable hearing "truth."  Nice idea but it did not allow for ineptitude and laziness.  The churches are empty in Europe.  People are open to hearing the gospel.  They are not open to stupidity, laziness in preparation, lack of talent, out of touch with the culture, and need I go on?  

In this country, where the state does not support the churches, many a clergy do not mind being unpopular.  They do their thing, their "vision" of church.  People leave.  Collections go down.  These clergy think that they are suffering with Christ, being crucified by a godless culture.  Hello?  I thought gospel meant good news.

Friday, March 22, 2013


When the Protestant Reformers began to deny the "whatness" of the Eucharist, the Catholic Church decided to pick up Thomas Aquinas' idea of Transubstantiation.  This defined what the Eucharist is.  It is the Body and Blood of Christ, that looks like a host or bread and cup of wine, but in fact is the real Jesus.  It was a success, to a point.  Many Catholics today believe in the "whatness" of the Eucharist.  Trouble is this intellectual assent of faith does not move many people to want to go to church to receive the Eucharist.

There is an earlier way of talking about the Eucharist.  It is called Consubstantiation.  It means that the Eucharist is the way that God is revealed through Christ to us.  Or more importantly, it is the way that God especially comes to us.  I think that this is a much more valuable way of looking at Communion.  Whatness is intellectual.  It does not change us much.  It only changes the bread and wine.  But if you experienced God coming to you in the mass and communion, I think you might want very much to go and receive.  Consubstantiation does not quibble about what something is or when it becomes what it is.  Consubstantiation is about the dynamic of relationship.  You may not know exactly what someone is in any objective fashion.  Someone you love may always be a mystery, but if you experience their love for you when you are with them, then you hunger for the time to be with them.  God is your spouse.  God is Love.  Let the mystery be a mystery.  The Reformation is over.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Declining News

A report says that local news on TV is losing audience.  To me, this is in part the result of a lot of ambulance chasing.  The first few stories are about car wrecks, robberies where a reporter goes to the scene, reports on camera what happened and then onto the next event.  If a local politician gives a press talk, the reporter goes live on camera to say what the politician just said.  It is inexpensive and takes little talent.  No journalism here.  So people stop watching.  Advertisers stop advertising.  No money?  Show dies a slow death or lives on life support.

What is my point?  If the parish delivers a message that is not well prepared, by someone who does not take the time to do something in depth, people will stop tuning in.  Then they will go elsewhere or do something else with that block of time.  Money will dry up. The parish will go live on life support, dying slowly, attended by a few old diehards.  You can keep the attendance up a little by baptizing babies.  But that is a bit like buying more TVs.  You get a few more viewers, for a while.  Eventually, talent and effort, or the lack thereof, finds its own level of mediocrity.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Why is it that many women feel spent and  maybe resentful at the end of the day from taking care of all the other "me" people in their lives?  I am not sure I know.  What I do know is that it is not a man thing.  Guys don't "go there" spending themselves in service to those around them.  Now we guys will whine about how much we think we  give for others.  But it is because being selfless just isn't in our DNA.  I do not believe that God's plan is for women to exhaust themselves in caring for the careless? helpless? clueless?  We guys can clean house, drop people off, cook, and shop.  But if a woman cuts us some slack, we can instantly become helpless or otherwise busy, or even unreliable.  Some women say, only later, that their first child was their husband!  I can believe it.  And why are you children so useless at helping Mom get some Mom time?  My excuse is that I was a selfish kid.  And on top of it all, everyone complains about Mom when they don't get what they want!  Hey, this could be vocation copy for becoming a nun.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Always Taught

A US Senator just changed his mind about gay marriage.  He found out, to his dismay, that he has a gay son.  The Senator had a belief based upon what he was always taught.  "This is what my church, culture, religion always taught," is how we hear it.  The teaching then comes up against a new personal experience.  The Senator finds out that he has a son who is gay.  The Senator loves his son.  He knows his son.  The Senator now has an experience of a gay person in his life, a flesh and blood experience that challenges the intellectual knowledge about gay people and gay marriage that he had held so rigidly.  Result?  Senator changes his mind, in this case, about gay marriage laws.

As Jesus grew up, he was taught about the long standing beliefs of his religion.  Then he had an experience of God as "Abba."  This intimate and personal experience of God moved Jesus into another direction as regards the Kingdom, the Messiah, the Sinner, the Gentile.  Others had only the teaching, not the experience.  Jesus' experience did not try to change the teaching.  That would have been more rules and laws not much different from the ones in the Book.  Until the person is changed, by an experience, usually interpersonal, they will be stuck in "as we always taught" mentality.  The past can be a place of safety, but rarely a place of transformation.    

Monday, March 18, 2013

Heaven or God?

Which do you want?  You say, if you get one you get both.  Hold on.  Your idea of heaven is simply your idea of heaven.  It probably has all the things you want.  And you get all these things you want by being good or more good than bad.  So this heaven is a combo of selfishness, what you want, and ethics, about doing good or avoiding bad.  Nothing here about developing an intimate relationship with God.  You probably have your own personal idea who that is too.  It really is an eternity reflecting you.  My suggestion is to skip trying to get to heaven since you have no idea what it is like.  Develop a relationship with God, which requires prayer of listening and then selfless love will follow.  Heaven then will take care of itself.  Atheists can do ethics.  But they won't become Christ.  They won't become fire.  Deep prayer into the unknown is too hard, demanding, at times boring, so most of us would skip it.  To meet God is enough for me.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Our Wounds

Our wounds, not the ones others gave us, but the ones caused by our own sins, faults, and selfishness, are not to be ignored or wallowed in.  Why?  Well, Jesus touched all of these wounds when he came into this world, lived and died upon the cross.  When we say, "He took our sins upon himself,"  we mean, in this case, that all sin was touched by the divine.  Sins are not made holy, but they are the way to holiness.  We become humble when we realize that God loves us in spite of our faults, and maybe even because of them.  God rejects nothing of us.  The humility we have is from our realization of how much God loves and how much we offend.  What a paltry response we make.  All saints come to God after recognizing the wounds of their lives.  Anyone who says, "I don't need to confess.  I haven't done much wrong," is never going to become a saint.  Aren't saints the ones who go to heaven?  Get in touch!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

One For All

Tiger Woods, the golfer, won another tournament.  Steve Stricker came in second.  So what?  Well, before the tournament began, Steve gave Tiger a putting lesson.  That is the stoke you use on the greens to get the ball into the hole.  After the tournament, Steve said that Tiger winning is good for the overall game of golf, because Tiger, being so popular, generates a lot of interest and that is good for the sport.  Steve is not so much about Steve, as he is about a larger world than himself.  When we can keep our ego in check and help others when they are struggling, the world will be a better place.  It isn't all about "me."

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Big Brother

The prodigal son story is in Luke 15.  The details are there.  I want to look at the eldest son.  He is the one who keeps all the rules and laws.  He reminds me of the Catholic who says, "If you can't keep all the rules and do all the Church tells you, then you should leave the Church."  With them it is all or nothing.  The problem is that their hearts are hard.  Jesus did not have a hard heart.  He came for the "sinners" who cannot seem to get it all together.  The eldest son hates little brother.  What will happen?  Little brother has blown his inheritance.  When dad dies, big brother gets it all.  Will he take care of little brother?  Will big brother kick little brother out of the house, much like the "good" Catholic want nobody but themselves in the Church?  We won't know, but I think this parable from Jesus was aimed at the big brother types.  Little brother?  Who knows?  He may always be a mess.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Francis the Name

Everyone jumped on the bandwagon of Francis of Assisi as the model of the new papacy?  Did the pope say that?  One Jesuit suggested that it could have referred to Francis Xavier, a Jesuit,  who was by far more of a "missionary" to another culture than was Francis, who hardly got out of Assisi.  He did go to the Sultan, but got dismissed by them and converted no one.  As soon as he died, his order went in another direction as regards his idea of "poverty."  It happens with some founders.  Xavier went to India and Japan.  He did well.  He wanted to go to China but died before he got there.  See the connect?  Not Assisi, but the Orient and India.  This new pope may be conservative on the sex and ordination issues, but I suspect he will be quite creative about allowing for a non-Latin West Church to flourish in these other places.  Just sayin'

Black Hole Prayer

Contemplation is like a black hole.  It sucks in all thoughts and feelings, such that you don't even know they are there.  We become unaware of them, as the powerful energy of contemplation overcomes the powerful energy of thoughts and feelings.  Anyone who says that contemplation is "nothing" or a waste of time and energy has not really been to the center of it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Francis I

As you are all reading, our new pope lives in a small room and not a house or bishop mansion.  He takes public transportation to work instead of being driven in a limo.  His parents are from Italy.  He is Italian but from a southern hemisphere country and speaks Spanish.  He is a religious order priest, a Jesuit, but took the name of the Franciscan founder.  This is all impressive for the world.  He did ask the people to bless him by silent prayer, before he blessed them.  He will be the evangelizer of Rome, his diocese, which is a signal to bishops that he is not going to run their world for them, as did his two predecessors.  He will give an example of how to evangelize.  He is 76 and can give it a go for 8-10 years.  It gives him time to pick more pastoral type priests for Cardinals, rather than office functionaries and those who like to live in comfort.  He may have to hunt for these in the USA.  Who knows.  I have felt that religious order priests were the future if the church was going to talk to the modern world.  We tend to listen more, and have a better connect with the laity even though we live in community.  We tend to be better educated too.  Just sayin'.

Anyway, I am a good fit for this pope.  I have a small office and small bedroom, no furniture, drive a 20 year old car, am Jesuit educated, am a religous order priest, and can do Spanish.  I await my phone call.  Does Francis I have my cell?

Clean Sweep

One of the things that happened when Pope Benedict XVI retired is that all the Cardinals who had Vatican jobs, lost their jobs.  That is one of the reasons that Vatican government ceases during the Sede Vacante.  Now if Benedict felt that the Vatican needed a clean sweep, but was too old or tired to take it on, he could retire and let the next pope do it.  And more, I don't believe that there is a Canon Law that requires Cardinals, or the ordained of any rank, to run those Vatican offices.  A lay woman could do it with the right eduction.  Now that would be a prophetic voice!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tardy Cardinals

What is taking those few Cardinals so long to get to Rome?  Politics?  The longer the Cardinals have to wait for everyone to arrive, the more time there is for the Cardinals in Rome to get to know one another and get to know more about one.  Maybe those tardy Cardinals are tardy for a purpose.  Crafty, no?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Prophetic Voice

It seems that the Cardinals are looking for a Pope who might be a prophetic voice.  Jesus was a prophetic voice.  He introduced something new, and he got rejected by the status quo power structures. A lot of people were not ready for him either.  When my Church gets stuck, it acts like a privileged institution that defends the status quo.  There is a difference between "Tradition" which is quite valuable, and simply trying to live in the past.  A prophet does not call people to go back in history.  The past is past.  The prophet calls people to live out the transforming meaning of the past.  Maybe we could start with the Gospel.  How can we call people to live the transforming meaning of the gospel in the modern world?  I don't think that Jesus wanted his followers to dominate or conquer the world, two ways that the Institutional Church went in the past.  Might not a Church that dialogues be more able to influence the post modern world, than one that simply talks at you with speeches?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Classroom Versus Formation Model

A fellow Paulist came up with the Classroom vs. Formation model of becoming a Catholic.  In the classroom model, as I see it, we get information that we put into our heads and can repeat, such as a creed.  We may even come to some understanding of the creed in the classroom model.  In the Formation model, we become Christ, we are formed to live as Christ challenged us to live.  You can always look up an answer.   If you want to know about the Catholic church, read a book.  If you want to become Christ, well, that is a slow and laborious process of transformation.  The Gospels set the bar. Go for it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Global Village Pope

Because modern media communications has allowed the pope to be a teacher for the world, the new pope will have quite an effect on the church.  The pope can say something or do something and in an instant it is news everywhere.  This has its dark side.  In centuries past, when the papacy seemed remote from peoples' lives, a bad, mediocre or ineffectual pope did not have much world wide bang.  Even today, not many Catholics in the street know very much about the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, for example.  If there is a secret report that casts a pall over the goings on in the Vatican, I would think that a few cardinals want to elect someone who will bury it.  Why?  Well, it might effect those very cardinals.  The conclave will be a power struggle between business as usual, with cover ups if necessary, including the Vatican Bank, and on the other side, those who are really outsiders in the cardinal circles and want real reform.  We shall see.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Not One Jot

Jesus says that he is not here to remove even one jot of the law, in Matthew 5: 17-19.  I wish that he would have done away with the law, because I cannot seem to keep it, certainly not down to the last jot.  Maybe that is the point.  Jesus keeps the bar very high, so that we will see that we fall short of the rules.  This could lead to humility we hope, or to despair, we hope not.  Humility would keep me in prayer, as I ask Jesus' help, mercy and forgiveness.  Failure can keep me in touch with Jesus through prayer, reveal the faults that keep me in imperfection, and hopefully make me less judgmental of others who are not so perfect as I would like them to be.  Jesus came to save sinners, not the perfect.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Retreat

I just finished giving a retreat to a group of 37 people.  In listening to their feedback, I am coming to realize that my content will upset a pious person, but that person will remain pious, whereas, someone who is struggling with the institutional Catholic Church,  or who dropped out, or is on the outer edges of formal practice, will draw some hope from what I say. In a word, I won't drive anyone away from the Church, but I might be a small part of bringing someone back to the Church, or to Christ, or to a deeper spiritual life.  After all, I am a Paulist!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I am told that I belong to a Universal Church.  I think that the College of Cardinals has not caught up to this Universal tag.  There are more Italian Cardinals than all the Cardinals of Africa and South America combined.  Many more Catholics live in Africa and South America than live in Italy.  Combine Italy with European Cardinals and the center of the Church is still Europe, by far.  The European churches are emptying out, but they have the Cardinals.  What do these Cardinals do when not electing popes?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Intimacy Or Power?

In Matthew 20: 17-28, the sons of Zebedee and their Mom want power.  They want to be on either side of Jesus in his upcoming political kingdom.  It is as if they are angling to become popes or at least cardinals in the political Church.  Jesus says that can can drink from the cup.  We can all go to communion and drink from the chalice.  That does not make you close to Jesus.  You are already close to Jesus, but are unaware, or unawakened.  Closeness you have.  Intimacy is another matter.  Jesus says that it is for the "Father" to decide on that.  In other words, this is God's doing.  You have to wait upon God. How do you go about waiting?  Jesus says that you should avoid being an authority figure, lording it over subjects as do the Roman leaders.  Become a servant of the community.  The Roman Catholic Church decided to follow the Roman secular government model and become authority figures in a top down approach.  You really think Jesus had this in mind?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Inside Or Outside

Do you grow from the inside or from the outside?  In a spiritual sense, we grow from the inside since that is where the soul resides, I believe.  But religion teaches us to grow from the outside.  It gives us outside rules to follow with our outside bodies.  It teaches us outside doctrines that we learn with our outside mind.  But the soul is fed from stillness and silence.  Ask yourself what changes you?  Did your catechism and rules change you?  Prayer of interior stillness and silence can change us.  We grow from the inside.  I have found it to be so.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Who Enters?

Instead of saying that Jesus enters into us at the time of receiving communion, let us say that we enter into Jesus.  Too often we want Jesus to come into our mess and fix it or fix us.  We want our world to change by his presence.  But if I see myself as entering into the Presence, the Kingdom, then I bring all of me into this world of God.  I don't try to change anything.  I simply enter into the otherness and let it become anything but "other."  Then when I sit down, I just want to enjoy the Jesus world, and let God be God.  Too often, when we think of the Eucharist, we think of it as God out there who I want to get inside of me.  Rather, in this new notion, I simply want to get into the kingdom and be.  It becomes a little bit like C. S. Lewis and entering through the wardrobe closet.  You never know what you will find when you enter into the Kingdom.  But you have to be willing to enter.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Crossing The Line

In my tradition you cannot receive the Eucharist unless you know stuff and agree that the stuff you learned is true.  The stuff is called theology or catechism.  It is basically a head trip, or intellectual exercise, though for a child, and many others, the head and heart seem to work closely together.  The child wants to receive communion, believes that it is Jesus and that something wonderful will happen.  Since my tradition treats most people as children, this is how we teach about the Eucharist.

Then the child becomes a teenager.  No longer does the Eucharist hold the magic.  The head and heart seem to go separate ways.  The belief might be there or waver, as it often does, when we think belief requires a felt experience of "Wow!"  What does the teen do? Find another place for the wow.  Go to movies, read vampire novels, drink from the god of Bacchus.  Then there is always sex which of course prevents the receiving of Eucharist because teen sex is forbidden in my tradition.  Confession first.  Look around and see how few teens there are in church.  There are the packed Newman Centers and some teen masses that do well.  Not much else.  Must be a better way.  Maybe the traditional way of mind first/catechism/information does not have much staying power.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sede Vacante

Well, the Chair of Peter is vacant as of today.  No pope.  How is my life different?  Not at all really.  Except I have no one the blame for the mess in the Church.  Actually, I have one less person to blame for the mess, since Benedict just retired.  I would not want to blame me!  I could not be part of the problem, right?  Say it isn't so.