The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you..." [Jer 1:5]

My, oh my...I think the Senate Democrats have, with their latest vote, finally crossed a bridge that will collapse behind them. Truly a "bridge too far" from which there's no real return. They have fully embraced the culture of death in what has to be the most vile vote in the history of the United State Senate.

Three courageous Democrats, but only three  — Senators Robert Casey (PA), Joe Manchin (WV) and Doug Jones (AL) — joined all Republicans present in supporting a bill authored by Senator Ben Sasse (R-NB). The bill would have protected the lives of babies born alive after a botched abortion. Unbelievably, those 44 Democrats decided that these babies should be murdered by the abortionist if they happen to survive the procedure. (The bill needed 60 votes to pass.)

Of course these murderous 44 Senators have only echoed their fellow Democrats in New York, Virginia, Vermont, and other states. The Democrat Party, with just a very few exceptions, has now climbed aboard the infanticide bandwagon that will continue to crush the lives of our most innocent citizens under its wheels. 

Between now and the 2020 elections, this vote must be shouted from the rooftops. No one who voted against this bill should remain in the United States Senate. 

Pray for them, but vote against them.

Video: Homily 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

The wonderful Audio-Video folks of our parish recorded a video of the homily I preached this past Sunday. I have embedded the video below for those who would rather listen than read. The text is available here. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Homily: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Readings: 1 Sam 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23; Ps 19; 1Cor 15:47-49; Lk 6:27-38

Here we are, just 10 days before Lent and through today's readings the Church offers us a beautiful pre-Lenten message. So maybe that's what we should focus on today: preparing our minds and hearts for Lent.

Most of us think of Lent as a time of sacrifice and self-denial - nothing drastic mind you, just small personal sacrifices... things like giving up dessert or putting a little extra in the collection basket, or maybe praying the Stations of the Cross on the occasional Friday.

Now don't get me wrong. Prayer, fasting, and sacrifice are good things, and given the growth of our parish, I know Fr. Peter will appreciate a few extra dollars. As the Church has always taught, Lent is a time for prayer, fasting, and alms giving. But these are not ends in themselves; rather, they are the means by which we draw closer to God and carry out His will in our lives. I think we sometimes get so caught up in the "things" of Lent, we forget why we are called to do them. 

Lent is really about conversion, about change. It's about interior change, change in here, in the heart, the same kind of change we hear from Jesus in today's Gospel.

How did Jesus begin?
" your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" [Lk 6:27-28].
Pretty hard stuff, isn't it?
"Love your enemies..."
I don't know about you, but for me these commands of Jesus are among the most difficult to follow. They just seem so counterintuitive, don't they? So un-human, which of course they are...because they are divine.

Some years ago, I caught a news story about a woman who was to be executed for her role in a brutal murder. She'd been on death row for years and during that time had experienced a deep conversion to Christianity.

During an interview, a daughter of the victim hoped to witness the execution.

"I want to watch her die," she said, "just as she watched my father die. I'm a Christian but some things just can't be forgiven. I hope she rots in hell."

Wow! I can understand her anger, but found myself praying more for her than for the murderer - a murderer who went to her death repentant, at peace, asking only for God's mercy and the forgiveness of those who suffered because of her sins.
"I want to watch her die..."
How did Jesus put it? 
"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" [Lk 6:36].
So often we think we can defeat the world's evils on our own, but of course we can't.

Certainly not through politics. Politics, the art of the compromise, must, therefore, always be imperfect.

Certainly not through man's justice, since we so often mistake revenge for justice.

And despite the courage of those who defend us, the application of power never seems to change things.

We live in a world in which the Prince of Lies employs his agents to kill babies, shatter families, corrupt priests (and deacons), and mock the Church.

Only one thing can overcome the evil of the world...only mercy.

As Jesus reminds us, mercy and forgiveness are divine; unattainable without God's help. And yet He commands that we imitate the perfection of Father: to be as merciful, forgiving, and loving as the Father.

How can we do this? We can't. For we can't save ourselves. We must turn to God in total humility. 

We are called to serve each other; but to serve another, to love another as God loves demands humility. I must lower myself and place the other higher. Only then can I see the other as he or she truly is: as a child of God who was loved into existence. 

As St. Peter instructed his fellow Christians: "...clothe yourselves with humility" [1 Pt 5:5].

For most of us, this calls for some pretty drastic change.

And that's what Lent's all about. You see, Lent really is about giving up something. It's about giving up yesterday, all of our yesterdays, the yesterdays of selfishness, sin, and death for the today of life. 

To change is to repent. But repentance means so much more than simply being sorry for our sins. Repentance is to turn around, to change direction, to re-think our lives. And in repentance I must turn more and more completely to a living Christ.

As St. Paul reminded us in our second reading, "we must bear the likeness of the heavenly one" [1 Cor 15:49], the new Adam, Jesus Christ who gave up the glory of His yesterday and in an act of divine humility chose the Cross.

He did that for you and He did that for me. That's right...He chose that Cross for you. That's how much He loves you. And if you were the only person in the world, He would have done the same thing.

That's how much He loves you.

We can easily give up a percentage or two of body fat, or an evening at our favorite restaurant, or, perish the thought, even a round of golf, but can you and I give up our yesterdays?

Can we refuse to be imprisoned by our pasts? And, believe me, the habits and sins of the past are all the more deadly because they are so damned comfortable...and, yes, I say that because they can be damning.

Can I give up that consuming concentration on the self where my days and nights revolve around me, around my delights, my worries, my frustrations, my fears, my needs, my wants?

If yesterday is sin, than today must be love. For love alone is the solution to sin.

If yesterday is the prison of sin, today is the freedom of the risen Christ. If you want to repent, then taste the freedom of God's love.

Open yourself to God in free obedience, open yourself to others in uncompelled love. This is no soap-opera love, not something out of a country-western song, but a love that keeps all God's commandments.

It's a love not crushed by the crosses we sometimes must bear.

It's a love that dies for another, a love stronger than death.

Such is the love of Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Lent, you see, looks forward to the Easter miracle, prepares us for the Risen Christ, the living Christ who remains among us.

Do you believe that?

Do you believe that Christ is alive, more gloriously alive today than when he walked the rugged roads of Galilee and Judea and Samaria?

Do you believe that with the risen Christ death no longer has power over you, that when it comes it will hold you for only the briefest moment?

Do you believe that through Jesus Christ you will cast off death and rise to an eternal life beyond your wildest dreams?

Do you believe that as a baptized Christian you are already risen with Christ, because His life courses through you like another bloodstream?

Do you believe you don't have to go searching for God, because His Holy Spirit is already right here within you? He came to you first in Baptism and comes to you again and again through the sacraments.

If you believe all this, then Lent will indeed be life for you.

If you believe all this, when you are sent into the world at the end of today's Mass, when you hear those words, "Go in peace, and glorify the Lord by your life," you'll know exactly what to do.

You will love your enemies.

You will do good to those who hate you.

You will bless those who curse you.

You will pray for those who mistreat you.

You will feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger and visit and comfort the sick.

You'll do all those things, because that's what Jesus wants you to do...and He wants you to do them today, and tomorrow, and every day.

Quite simply He wants you to love God and love one another.

He calls you to "be merciful just as your Father is merciful."

Try that for Lent.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Morning Thought

I'm an early riser. I enjoy the pre-dawn stillness here in our Florida retirement community. For me, noise has become a mind-numbing distraction and my aging brain seems to function best in the silence of these early hours. I need the quiet to think and to pray. There is, however, one exception. For some unknown reason, classical music, specifically the baroque, soothes my mind and animates my thoughts. Many of my best ideas germinate during a Bach fugue and mature thanks to a Vivaldi violin concerto. Of course, these days, unless I write them down, most of these great thoughts disappear within minutes. Too often I am left only with the not-so-great.

This morning, for example, I read about a professor, enjoying his tenure at some prestigious university, who attributed all the world's ills to a group he labeled, dead white males. Now, as a future representative of this subset of humanity, I took this attack personally. I see no need to present a counter argument since one can easily refute the professor's attack by a quick scan of the history and culture of Western civilization. But then I realized this academic was interested in neither history nor culture. No, indeed, he was trying to make me, along with all other white males, both dead and alive, regret our very identity. He wanted me to apologize, not for what I have said or done, but for who I am. And this I will not do.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not proud of my white maleness. How can I take pride in that over which I have no control? Anyway, pride is highly overrated and if you don't believe me, just read chapter three of the Book of Genesis. No, I consider my race and my sex to be gifts from God. And because they are gifts, I thank God for them. Every human being should do the same. If you are a black female or an Asian male, just thank God every day for these wonderful gifts that form a part, but only a part, of your uniqueness. 

Bigotry in the form of racism and sexism exist when God  is forgotten. When we attack others because of their God-given identity, we also attack God who created each one of us in His image and likeness. 

This is also why so-called transsexuality is morally wrong. To try to change one's sex is to reject one of God's most precious gifts. It becomes just another vain attempt to "be like God" [Gen 3:5] and we all know what happened the first time a man and a woman tried to do that. Also, our very DNA prohibits any real change in sex. People might call themselves whatever they want, but their sex remains locked in their DNA. It remains God's gift, even if we try to reject it.

God commands you and me to love Him with all our being and to love each other as we love ourselves. Do you love yourself as God made you? You should, because it is a beautiful gift, the gift of life itself. And if you don't, you will not only despise yourself, but also others. So many today do not love themselves. Because they reject the gift of their own being, they have no problem rejecting the gifts that mark the identity of others. 

Pray for all those torn by inner confusion, for those unaware of the wonder of God's gifts. Yes, indeed, "Being is good."

And now I think it's time for a Handel concerto grosso.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Homily: Wednesday 6th Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Gn 8:6-13, 20-22• Psalm 116 • Mk 8:22-26
I can't speak for anyone else, but my conversion has been a long, often painful process, one that's still ongoing. It certainly wasn't instantaneous. I didn't have a Road to Damascus experience like St. Paul. 

But God does appear to me. He appears to me again and again. He does so through the others He sends into my life. Some are called and tell me so. Not long ago one person said to me, "I was praying and God told me to come to you about this." And it's usually something about which I haven't a clue. How do I deal with that? I don't. I just turn it over to God and ask Him what to do.

But most of those He sends me are just there. They appear in my life and they have a need. I'd like to say that I'm always ready to do what I can to help, but that would be a lie. Sometimes I turn away. Sometimes I make excuses. Sometimes I give a half-hearted response or send them to someone else. And, yes, sometimes I actually turn to God and ask for His help.

Faith for me has been a journey, a process, a long process, probably much longer than the Lord would like. And I suspect that's true for most people.

This is one reason why the saints sometimes discourage me more than they encourage me. Their holiness just seems impossible to imitate. Examining their lives we see what we are called to become, but we don't really see how to get there. That's why I like it when I come across one of those slightly more scruffy saints. You know what I mean, a saint with a past, one who led a sinful life before responding to God's grace.

St. Augustine is the first to come to mind. For a good part of his life he was far from saintly, but he went on to become one of the greatest saints in the early Church. Saints like Augustine give us hope and a glimpse of the mercy of God. They show us a loving God working patiently on intractable material. They show us the path, not just the destination.

Our readings give us a glimpse of the same thing. Several of the early Church fathers describe the passage in today's first reading as a process of worldwide purification or conversion. Noah and his family were brought to a safe haven because they obeyed God's will; they found salvation through a process that took both time, effort, and total trust.

Now this becomes even more apparent in the Gospel passage we just heard. Mark tells only two stories of Jesus restoring the sight of blind men. The first is the blind man in today's reading; the other is Bartimaeus [See Mk 10:46-52].

I've always thought that Mark wants us to see these two blind men as metaphors for the Christian community.  The man from Bethsaida in today's reading stands for the condition of most Christians, while Bartimaeus stands for where Mark would like us to be.
He Laid His Hands on Him
The man from Bethsaida comes across as hard to convert. At first he's only half-healed by Jesus. Compare him to Bartimaeus, who jumps up, runs to Jesus when called, and is healed instantly.

And yet, I find myself more sympathetic to the slow healer, the reluctant blind man who regains his sight slowly over time. Notice what Jesus does with him. First He pulls him away from the others, the skeptics, the curious, from those who might hinder his journey to faith. He needs to be alone with Jesus, up-close-and-personal with God.

Jesus leads him outside the village, for in the village - the place he came from - there is blindness, spiritual blindness. Jesus then begins the cure using what is almost a sacramental rite. He puts spittle on the man's eyes and lays his hands on him. And just as sacramental grace acts in our hearts and souls, the man's sight is then restored in stages as he responds to Jesus' healing touch. Jesus lays hands on the man twice with Mark recording this remarkable miracle in three short phrases: He looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly.
Jesus Alone with the Blind Man
Yes, brothers and sisters, that's what true conversion does: it lets us see everything clearly. And because conversion never ceases, Jesus sent him home with a warning to avoid the village, the place of spiritual blindness, the home of those who thrive only in darkness.
St. Jerome in the Desert (Da Vinci)
St. Jerome, the great Scriptural scholar and Father of the Early Church, explains the spiritual significance of this healing for us:  
"Christ laid his hands upon his eyes that he might see all things clearly, so through visible things he might understand things invisible, which the eye has not seen, that after the film of sin is removed, he might clearly behold the state of his soul with the eye of a clean heart."
We are, then, left to consider the spiritual blindness in our own lives, the blindness that obstructs our vision preventing us from following Jesus. What's keeping you and me from being the true disciple Jesus seeks?

Allow the Lord to lay hands on you, to touch you with his grace and power that you may walk in the light of his redeeming truth and love. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Homily: Monday, 6th Week in Ordianry Time

Readings: Gn 4:1-15, 25 • Ps 50 • Mk 8:11-13
Some years ago, in another parish, I was teaching a course on Church History when a man began to attack the Church for its teaching on the Eucharist. It seems he left the Church years before and became affiliated with a fundamentalist sect that considered the Eucharist a form of idol worship.

I took a deep breath, said a silent prayer, and surprisingly, I actually kept my cool. I then turned to Sacred Scripture and read what it revealed about the Eucharist. But this simply infuriated him. He didn't even try to counter my Scriptural arguments, but instead began to attack me personally.

Finally, I suggested that since we were in total disagreement, it might be best if we moved on. But his attacks continued, so I just told the class to take a break. When we reconvened he was gone. Reading today's Gospel passage from Mark, I found myself recalling that encounter from almost 30 years ago.

I often call Mark the Sergeant Joe Friday of the Gospels: "Just the facts, Ma'am." (You must be over 60 to recognize that allusion.) Yes, Mark lays it out there in simple, straightforward language, just as he does here: 
"The Pharisees came, and began to argue with Him..." [Mk 8:11]
You see, the Pharisees can't stand the fact that Jesus attracts so many - actually that the people follow Jesus and not them. They are so obsessed with Jesus, that they can't help themselves. They argue with Him, attack Him, and even try to test Him.

They ask Him for a sign from heaven, but of course, that's the last thing they either want or expect. If they actually thought He might be the Messiah, or even a prophet, they'd never dare to test Him, for to do so would be to test God Himself. In truth, the greatest sign from heaven is standing right before them, but they are too blind, too proud, to recognize it.
The Pharisees Argue with Jesus, and Demand a Sign
They consider Jesus a nobody, perhaps a clever nobody, but a nobody nevertheless. What they really want is to make Jesus do their bidding, and so they demand He do what they ask.

How often do we do the same? How often do we try to force our will on the Lord, and by doing so show we grasp nothing of God's will? Yes, indeed, instead of "Thy will be done," our prayer becomes my will be done. Because I'm so self-absorbed, I know only my will, and I know exactly what I want from God.

Ironic, isn't it? In my need, I finally come to the point where I accept my weakness, that I can do nothing. But instead of humbly opening myself to the Lord's will, I test Him, demanding He do what I can't do, and to do it in obedience to my will.

Brothers and sisters, in faith we cannot test the Lord, and certainly not in humility. To test the Lord is to imitate the Pharisees, to raise ourselves above Him. Instead we must be ever willing to receive the Lord's will in our lives, and to receive it gratefully even when it seems so contrary to our own will.

Mark often reveals the most human side of Jesus, and today's passage offers a perfect example.
"He sighed deeply in His Spirit" [Mk 8:12].
...a most human sigh from deep within Jesus. 

How the Pharisees must have tired Him, exasperated Him in their foolish pride, their hypocrisy, their spiritual blindness. Standing in their midst, He must be thinking, "These men are the teachers of Israel? I'm surprised any faith remains in the land."

He knew there would be no conversion that day, no belief, and that argument was futile. As Cardinal Newman once wrote: 
"It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing."
And so Jesus refuses the Pharisees' demands:
" sign will be given to this generation" [Mk 8:12].
Now, Jesus gave many signs. Indeed, John in his Gospel, describes Jesus' miracles as signs, as works of God that point to even greater revelations. But Jesus' signs are always in response to faith or for a deepening of faith, but never for a purpose that wants to show itself stronger than the Lord's will.

When Jesus expresses and reveals the will of the Father, there is only a Yes or a No. And in this instance the Pharisees are refused.
"And He left them..." [Mk 8:13].
There will be no sign, no miracle. The Pharisees are left to stand alone and silent, unable to refute Jesus, the Word of God, or to disprove the miraculous.

Jesus leaves them not to make Himself seem important as the Pharisees want to be important. 
He left them and Joined the Disciples
No, He just leaves and joins His disciples in the boat. He does this to increase the disciples' faith and to glorify the Father; to teach them that there are things that demand an absolute No. They also learn that sometimes it is best to walk away and let the Spirit do His work. 

Let us remember that as well. Our prayer should never be a test of the Lord. Instead, today let's ask our loving Father to show us His will and keep us always in His love. We need no more.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Humble Service

A few weeks ago a parishioner approached me for help. She is a member of a wonderful apostolate, the Marian Servants of the Word Incarnate. They live by a Rule of Life that includes prayer, holiness, obedience and service. She would be giving a presentation on the topic of humble service and asked me to recommend books, etc.

As it turned out I decided to offer her a few of my own thoughts on the subject and then, perhaps, search my library for any appropriate books. Due to the press of other obligations, I never got around to looking for the books, but I did manage to pass along those thoughts, which I have included below.

I began by apologizing for the random nature of my thoughts and the lack of a logical progression of ideas, as well as any errors and typos...It was all done in a rush. I've made a few minor changes (and corrections) to what I wrote originally, but the substance remains.

Humility and Service

As a deacon, I'm very much focused on service, or at least I’m supposed to be, since service is at the very core of our calling as deacons. The words "deacon" and "diaconate" both stem from the Greek word for servant: diaconia. And so this is what we deacons are called to be: quite simply, servants

It all harkens back to the first seven deacons who were called to serve at table in the early Church (see Acts 6:1-7). Indeed, this is what led me many years ago to begin serving at the soup kitchen. It just seemed like the normal thing for a deacon to do. And, of course, Diane volunteered to be the Thursday cook, so I really had little choice. If you continue reading Acts 6 and the following chapters you’ll notice that St. Stephen and his brother deacons did far more than wait on tables, but it was all done in a spirit of deep humility.

By the way, most of my service as a deacon was initiated by Diane. For example, she also “volunteered” me to join with her as a hospital chaplain team. And it was her interest in the Bible, founded in her Baptist roots, that led me to consider starting our parish’s Bible Study program. Letting God call us through others can also be humbling and a key element of service.

Indeed, true service can be done only in humility, otherwise it simply isn't service. I can be only humble or prideful; there’s really no in-between. If I try to serve another, but do so in pride, I am really only serving myself, building up my "self-image" as today's psychologist might say. 

For example, the Wildwood Soup Kitchen is a true ecumenical ministry, with volunteers from over 30 churches, plus a synagogue, all helping out as we prepare and serve 300 meals every day. On occasion I ask some of these volunteers why they are there. The responses are varied and interesting:

“It makes me feel good.”

“I like helping others.”

“It’s my way of repaying for all I’ve been given.”

…and many more similar answers. There’s nothing “wrong" with these motives, but they aren’t centered on humble service. Sometimes I’m told, "Because Jesus commands it,” and I suppose that's a better reason. 

But to really serve another completely, I must lower myself and place the other higher. Only then can I see the other as he or she truly is, as a child of God who was loved into existence by the creative Word of God. Jesus, of course, gave us the recipe for this when He said:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” [Mt 25:35-36].

If we see everyone we serve as our Lord, Jesus Christ, then we can be nothing but humble. And we must believe this in our hearts, accepting that God's love extends to all. Failure to accept this is perhaps the greatest obstacle to carrying out the kind of service demanded by our Lord: 

“…whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” [Mk 10:43-45].

As you can see, we are called not only to see Jesus in others – to recognize the Divine Presence in others -- but also to do so in imitation of Jesus. We are called to serve, not to be served, to be a "slave to all.” And that's impossible...without God's help. It's impossible because it is not human, but divine. It is to love as God loves. It’s not something we can do on our own, and so we must turn to God for His help. We must become needy before God and allow Him to serve us.

And so we encounter another of those wonderful Gospel paradoxes. We have a need to serve and to be served. And these two needs -- to serve and be served -- are gifts from God. To turn down a gift from God is a horrible failing, and so we must accept both.

Too many Christians are great at helping others, but hate being helped by others. They want to carry out the call to serve, but don’t want to let others do the same. Of course, it’s apparent what’s behind this failing – the same thing that’s behind almost all of our failings: pride. The truly humble servant is also willing to be served. St. Peter, who seemed to offer a perfect example of so many human failings, typified this unwillingness to be served when, at the Last Supper, he resisted Jesus’ attempts to wash his feet. Jesus has to threaten disinheritance to get Peter to accept this humble service by his God.

Of course, Jesus’ greatest act of humble service is His Passion and Death. St. Paul, in his beautiful Christological Hymn in the Letter to the Philippians, describes this remarkable act of divine humility and service:

“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” [Phil 2:5-11].

What more do we need? The Christian, then, following the Great Commandment, serves both God and God’s people, and does so in the humility that only God can give.

True humility, you see, is nothing more than a firm grasp of reality. Once you and I contemplate and come to understand, if only partly, the indescribable greatness of God, at the same time we come to realize how truly insignificant we are. It’s hard then to be anything but humble. But we are lifted up knowing that God Himself, in His greatness, chose to become one of us.

In a great example of understatement Paul says, “…He emptied Himself…He humbled Himself…”, and in a perfect, continuing act of humility, Jesus does so again and again, every day on all the altars of the world. He makes Himself sacrificially Present through the Eucharist and actually allows us to take Him into ourselves. Do we ever consider the humility evident in this divine act of service to all of humanity?

Mary is our other great example of humility in service.

Mary, saved from sin, knew she had received a wondrous gift from God. Her call was to accept the gift of God’s Son in the deepest humility.

I don’t have time to address the fullness of Mary’s humility, but I think it’s telling that her first act after the Annunciation was to make the difficult and long trip from Nazareth to Judea to spend several months with her aging relative, Elizabeth, who was awaiting the birth of John the Baptist. Gabriel had just told Mary that she, “full of grace,” would become the mother of the Son of God. This could easily go to a young girl’s head; after all, she would bring forth the Messiah foretold by all the prophets and hoped for by generations of Jews. But in her humility she thinks not of herself but of her kinswoman and makes this remarkable journey of service to another in need.

My father used to say, "Humility's a very strange commodity, because once you know you have it, you just lost it." The saints, of course, were all humble. How could they be anything else? I doubt they even considered this virtue of theirs to be humility. For them it was simply reality. In a sense, humility is the great foundational virtue, the sine qua non without which no other virtue can develop. Without humility all other virtuous attempts will be overrun by pride and buried in the self.

We are, then, challenged to humility and to commit ourselves to a radical and total gift of self to others. Can we imitate the humility of our Lord? Are we committed to seeking ways in which we can serve others, showing them we love and care for them with God’s love? 

Homily: Saturday 5th Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Gn 3:1-24 • Ps 90 • Mk 8:1-10


After that first sin, that original sin, God asks Adam a question: 
"Adam, where are you?" [Gn 3:9]
At first it seem a strange question, doesn't it? After all, God knows where Adam is physically. But then we realize what God is really asking. He's asking Adam to look within himself and recognize where he is spiritually because of his sin. Yes, indeed...
"Adam, Where are you?"
Don't you see what's happened, Adam? What you and Eve have done to yourselves? 
With that simple question God reminds them that He had given them paradise on earth, everything they needed, but they had tossed it aside. They lost their intended place in God's creation because they desired God's place. 

God had created them in His image, molded them into His likeness, blessed them as no other creatures had been blessed, and yet they listened to Satan and succumbed to the temptation to be like God.

How that question, that Word of God, must have echoed throughout the Garden: 
"Adam, where are you?"
It's the kind of question Jesus would ask, isn't it? Calling the sinner back to awareness of his sinfulness. We hear similar questions in the Gospels, don't we?
"Woman, where are your accusers?" [Jn 8:10]
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?" [Jn 21:15-17]
St. Irenaeus, one of the great Fathers of the early Church, reminds us that it truly is the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of the Father, who speaks to Adam in the Garden. Listens to what Irenaeus writes:
"It is the Son who speaks with men... the Word of God who is always with the human race...and who teaches the things of God to men. The Son of God speaks now with Abraham, now with He seeks out Adam..."
Yes, indeed, He who will be called the "New Adam," the Word of God, the Son of God, seeks out and calls to Adam: 
"Adam, where are you?"
Adam is shamed. He and the woman are naked. With their sin they have cast themselves out of paradise and into exile. They know they have sinned, just as you and I know when we have sinned. But they refuse to admit it, to repent. Adam blames the woman. The other, the one created to be loved is now to be blamed.

Already the effects of their sin have taken hold. Sin and its effects will multiply and infect every generation that follows, pouring through the ages. We soon encounter it again, when God's Word asks another question:
"Cain, where is your brother?" [Gn 4:9]
Sin multiplies. A brother is envied, despised, and murdered. Today God asks us those same questions.

Where are you? Where is your brother?
Our world, much like our first parents in Eden, has become lost. Rather than recognizing and repenting of our sinfulness, rather than caring for one another, we cast blame, and we destroy.

"Where is your brother?"
It is a question that God, in His love and mercy, asks each of us. 
"Where are you?"
What you have done? What horrors have you brought to my creation? Why do you turn away from me, convinced you are gods? Why do you turn away from me when I call out to you?

Yes, God seeks us out, just as He sought Adam and Eve in the Garden.

God had provided them with food but they ate that which was forbidden them. Out of their rebellion something else is forbidden them: to eat of the tree of life, which would cause them to live forever. Despite their sinfulness, God offers them, and He offers us, a path to return to God from their exile.

As they leave the Garden they encounter God's mercy. And from that encounter comes a promise. It is the promise of God's Son, the gift of Jesus Christ, who will take on Adam's nakedness, our nakedness, who will take on the shame of humanity, the shame of all our sins, and allow Himself to be sacrificed by those He created.
By His wounds we are healed [1 Pt 2:24].
Yes, Jesus is nailed to the tree of life, and leaves us a new food: the Eucharist, His own Body and Blood. Once again we can eat of the food that will give us eternal life. It is through Jesus Himself that we are transformed.

The Mass is a kind of new Eden in which Jesus feeds us with the food that perfectly satisfies. We see a foreshadowing of this in today's Gospel passage from Mark:
"He took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks, He broke them and handed them to His disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the crowd" [Mk 8:6].
The Eucharist, the Bread of Life, comes from Jesus but is distributed by his disciples. Today we, the disciples, are called to feed the hungry with both the physical and spiritual bread they need.

Lord, teach us to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to labor and seek no reward save that of knowing that we do your holy will.

Friday, February 8, 2019

All About Power and Corruption and Death

What has happened to the Democrat Party? At one time, and not so very long ago, it claimed to be the party of the people, the party of common men and women who worked hard, struggling to ensure a better life for their families. 

Many of my relatives, my recent ancestors, were Democrats because they bought into the party's emerging gospel that only big government could solve big problems. But it's all bread and circuses, folks, a lie that's been accepted by far too many in the past. The result has been a near continuous stream of authoritarian and totalitarian slave states throughout history. Of course, as the power of government grows, the people become politically impotent. 

One of my heroes, Lord Acton, recognized the inherent evil of big government when he wrote:
"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”
In effect, he's telling us it's hard, perhaps impossible, for career politicians to resist the attractions of great power exerted over others. Unfortunately, in our nation neither party is immune. Both Republican and Democrat politicians fall prey to these attractions. 

In recent years, however, the Democrat Party has too often been the party most enamored of government power. In the South, many Democrats used the power of government to ensure the continuation of segregation well into the mid-twentieth century. LBJ is a perfect example of the Southern Democract who was an avid racist but came to realize the political advantages of repackaging himself as a civil rights leader. 

Northern Democrats often leaned far to the left, grasping the failed ideas of the European socialists. But they soon realized that the majority of freedom-loving Americans would not accept authoritarian rule by elites, something that true socialism demanded. And so they toyed with the subtle and gradual implementation of socialist principles, introducing them as progressive means to a better life. 

But at its core, the left has always sought power, always looked for ways to control the masses. And so they must lie about their aims and the means to achieve them. The welfare state, radical environmentalism, open borders, confiscatory's all about power. 

Today the far left has pulled off a successful coup d'etat and taken near complete control of the Democrat Party. Abandoning all restraint, they have come to realize that ultimate power is the power of God, the power over life and death. And the perfect means to exert this power is through abortion. With abortion human life is no longer sacred, no longer a gift of God, but becomes the ultimate object of  manipulation and control. Once the people come to accept abortion and infanticide, and embrace the culture of death, they will be less likely to resist the application of government power to other aspects of their lives.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, "It's all about abortion." Abortion has become the ruling principle, the sine qua non, of the left. If you are against abortion, the left will do all in its power to destroy you politically. If you support abortion, the left will forgive a multitude of sins. 

Embracing the politics of death, politicians now push legislation that will permit the brutal killing of the most innocent human life for any reason whatsoever. And once again, Lord Acton sums it up for us:
"Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.”
Yes, indeed, morality becomes something the powerful can adjust and redefine to conform to the prevailing zeitgeist. Pope Benedict XVI called it the "dictatorship of relativism," and warned the Church and the world to cast it aside and embrace the truth. And what is the truth? Nothing less than Jesus Christ Himself:

"I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" [John 14:6].
Today our politicians strive to distort the truth by destroying life and denying that Jesus Christ is the way. This is why I have no doubt that Satan is pulling all their strings. He began his evil work in the garden by tempting our first parents to embrace the power of God Himself: "and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" [Gen 3:5]. And he continues that work today using the same tempting words. 

In recent weeks he has unleashed the killing of our most  innocent, but immediately followed it up with a series of bizarre environmentalist proposals to distract us from his deadly aims. Just read the idiocy offered as policy yesterday by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to turn our weak 21st-century minds from the real sin against the Holy Spirit. And, yes, I label abortion a sin against the Holy Spirit, After all, in the Nicene Creed, which we pray together every Sunday, we proclaim the Holy Spirit as "the Lord and giver of life." Through abortion we toss that aside and attempt to assign that title to ourselves. 

Whether you're a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or nothing, please pray for our politicians. Pray that they come to accept God as a giver of life. Pray that in all that is good they give glory, not to themselves, but to God.
"Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam" [Ps 115:1]