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.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Bible Study Guide: The Book of Jonah

Oops. I inadvertently deleted the post in which I provided a link to my newly revised Bible Study Guide on the Book of Jonah. Truly inadvertent. I thought I was deleting a draft version of the post, but it turned out to be the published version. I think it was originally posted about a week or so ago.

Anyway, for those who care, you can access the guide to the Book of Jonah here: Study Guide - Jonah

I hope you find it of some value as you continue your study of Sacred Scripture.

God’s peace...

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

New Bible Study Guide: The Book of Ruth

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t enjoy the Book of Ruth, that brief gem tucked away among the early books of the Old Testament. Somehow the anonymous author managed to tell this wonderful story in only four chapters, providing a perfect tutorial for the short story writer. It’s really a love story, one that’s told on many levels. The story touches the lives of the three main characters — Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz — and their relationships with each other and with God. Ruth is one of those books that should be read every so often just to deepen your faith in God’s love for us and how He quietly steps into our lives to help us achieve the salvation He desires for each of us. As the women of Bethlehem told Naomi: “Blessed is the Lord who has not failed to provide for you today...” [Ru 4:14]

Some years ago I wrote a brief study guide combining the books of Jonah and Ruth, but recently decided to separate the two books and write expanded versions of each. I finished Jonah a few weeks ago, and finally got around to Ruth this past week. I actually wrote most of it while on vacation in Tennessee and South Carolina because crummy weather kept us inside for a few days.

Here’s a link to the revised (new and improved) study guide: The Book of Ruth

You can access all of the study guides and other documents on the Documents page of our Bible Study website.

Monday, March 15, 2021

COVID Thoughts

This post will likely bring me some grief. That’s what usually happens when I criticize the wrong folks. Fortunately I’m old enough not to care about those who disagree with me. And to be honest, I’m certain I’m right, so why should I be all aflutter about those who will certainly attack. Of course, it’s all about COVID.

COVID Thoughts. Dr. Fauci, for example, has convinced me that he has evolved from highly respected epidemiologist to his current lofty position of highly politicized creature of the Washington, D.C. swamp. At one time he might have been a wonderful research scientist, but it’s now obvious he knows absolutely nothing about how a complex free-market society functions. He also apparently knows little about basic human interactions, you know, how people relate, collaborate, learn from each other, work together, and achieve. To the renowned doctor, these basic human needs are remote abstractions that can be set aside to achieve the greater good of “fighting the virus.” I hate to tell you this, but if you believe everything this politician in doctor’s clothing tells you, you’ve been bamboozled, hoodwinked, it what you will. Dr. Fauci has been wrong on virtually every single issue, and when he is confronted with these errors, he just shrugs his little shoulders and presses on to proclaim his next error. Every time this “expert” opens his mouth, he just parrots what the fear-mongering politicians have already said. After all, they’re the ones who pay his $400,000 plus salary. The man hasn’t had an original thought since he became just another government bureaucrat. 

Again and again, the experts and politicians tells us to believe and follow the science. What they don’t tell us is that science is never settled. It is always a movable feast, always a dialectic, a process by which scientists strive together in disagreement and agreement to come closer to a more accurate reflection of reality, all the while knowing that future science may well change everything. This is why when Al Gore and John Kerry, whose combined scientific knowledge could be etched on the head of a pin with a jackhammer, tell us that the science of global warming is settled science, we can be certain that both are, to use a scientific term, compete jerks. 

Dear Diane and I have both had our two Maderna vaccine shots. We live in the wonderful, highly rational state of Florida. But we are now on a brief vacation in Tennessee — yes, indeed, vaccinated and full of COVID antibodies, we decided to violate CDC and Biden guidelines and actually leave our home and travel. Tennessee is obviously a far more irrational state, since its authoritative powers — or perhaps it’s just the local county health fascists — demand compliance with rules requiring masking and social distancing in some places, but permit seemingly normal interaction in others. It boggles the mind. Much like allowing close interaction in Walmart and other large corporate stores, but shutting down small businesses. Do you think, perhaps, it has something to do with political contributions?

I find similarly confusing attitudes driving our Church’s response to the pandemic. “Safety first” seems to be the primary ruling guideline when it should probably come in third or fourth. We are a Eucharistic Church. As the fathers of the Second Vatican Council declared, “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.” And yet we are depriving thousands of the faithful from receiving the Eucharist. In our diocese we have not been able to take the Eucharist to shut-ins, those in nursing homes, or others whose need is probably the greatest. Does safety also supersede proper worship of our loving, merciful God? We celebrate Mass with tiny, socially distanced congregations while thousands more sit at home becoming estranged from the Church they believe cares little for them. And what about freedom? Does not the truth set us free? [Jn 8:32] Isn’t our freedom to worship something far greater than our physical safety? Haven’t we learned anything from twenty centuries of Christian martyrs who sacrificed everything — and, yes, including their safety — so you and I can worship God in freedom. Our bishops should be screaming to heaven, and to Washington, for the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment of our Constitution. 

Pray for our nation. Pray for out Church.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Homily: Monday, 3rd Week of Lent

Readings: 2 Kgs 5:1-15; Ps 42; Lk 4:24-30


How small a God do you believe in?

It’s kind of an odd question, but it’s really the question with which Jesus challenged the people of Nazareth, His hometown. When He showed up in the synagogue, they were already upset. They’d heard all about the wondrous things He’d done elsewhere and wanted Him to do the same in Nazareth. They thought they were special. Jesus, after all, was from Nazareth, and so they deserved special treatment. If Jesus were this great prophet that people were already calling Him, then why hadn’t He done anything here in Nazareth?

Of course, there was no thought of conversion, no desire to change their hearts, and repentance? Well, no need for that. No, their demand was all about entitlement, for they were a people wrapped up in themselves. Jesus looked at them and saw no humility, only pride.

Remarkably, they really exhibited little curiosity about Jesus Himself. Oh, they thought they knew Him, because He had grown up among them. But they could see Jesus only as He used to be, as the child who played in their streets. And now He’s a prophet? Well, Jesus, if you’re so great, how about proving it? Yes, they wanted some miracles too. But for the miraculous to engender faith, the heart must be well disposed.

You see, they believed in a very small god, a god of Nazareth, not the God of Creation. In a very real sense, they’d tried to create a god in their own image, and such a god must be small.

How does Jesus respond?

He reminds them how God worked wondrous miracles through His prophets Elijah and Elisha; but they were miracles aimed at those beyond the borders of Israel, at Gentiles, not Jews. For God, the true God, is the God of all Creation. He certainly isn’t a God to whom we can dictate.

With these examples from the books of Kings, Jesus reproaches His neighbors. His reproach, of course, attacks their pride. And they respond. Oh, yes, they respond with murderous intent.

Now I’ve occasionally said things in homilies to which people objected, but no one’s ever tried to kill me. But Jesus? They force Him out of synagogue and out of town, intending to throw Him off a cliff, all because He spoke the truth.

Yes, indeed, the cancel culture is nothing new. It was alive and well in Nazareth 2,000 years ago. The truth always upsets the world. To speak the truth today invites only condemnation. How much easier it is to just go with the flow, to hide the light of our faith, to hide the truth

And the truth often comes from unlikely places, doesn’t it? Like the servants of Naaman who by speaking the truth convinced the general to do what Elisha had commanded. Perhaps Naaman had a problem taking orders form others, especially prophets.

As for Jesus in Nazareth, He withdraws miraculously, leaving the people of Nazareth paralyzed in their wounded pride; perhaps even questioning: “Who is this man that we thought we knew?”

How about you? How about me? Do we believe in a little god, a subservient god, one at our beck and call, a god who does, or should do, our will.

Or do we believe in the Lord God, the God who created us out of love, who reveals Himself to us out of love, and calls us to do His will?

What about Jesus, the One the Father sent to become one of us, the One who gave His life for us, out of love? Do we listen to His Word? Do we realize He speaks to us constantly and from the mouths of the most unlikely people?

And that Cross He carries. Does He really expect each of us to carry one too? Why can’t He just make my life perfect, just they way I’d like it?

Brother, sister…Who is your God? Who is your Jesus? Have you and I created little gods, gods our minds can comprehend, little gods we can control?

Or, like the deer in the Psalm that thirsts for the stream’s running water, do we thirst and long for the God of Creation, the God of Revelation, the God of the Incarnation, the God who loves, the God who saves, the God who calls each of us to be His disciple?

You and I have to let go of our little gods and let the true God quench our thirst as He wills.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

White, Male, Catholic, Deacon, American, Veteran...Prime Candidate for Cancelation

Yes, indeed, that’s me, described briefly in the title of this post. And do you know something? I’m perfectly happy and content with each and all of these broad identifiers. That’s right, it doesn’t bother me at all that I’m white and a man. And I’m grateful to have been born into a devoutly Catholic family whose ancestors courageously left Ireland in the nineteenth century and settled here in the United States of America. I am deeply humbled that God called me to the diaconate, so I could serve Him through the ministries to which He has led me. I even allow myself a bit of pride because I served my country for many years in the U. S. Navy. 

But according to the leftist, self-proclaimed judges of our culture, I’m just about the worst kind of person imaginable and a prime candidate for cultural cancellation. Yep, simply because of who I am — or in their twisted minds, what I am — I shouldn’t be permitted to utter a word, unless it’s a word of self-condemnation. To these neo-fascists of the left, a person is either all bad or all good, and we know who falls into these extreme, binary categories. 

Why am I so content with me? Let’s see...I had absolutely nothing to do with most of these identifiers. For example, my race, my sex, and my nationality were God’s decision and to reject any would be to reject God Himself. He wanted me to be an American white male and so I should be grateful for this and live my life accordingly. In the same way I encourage all to be thankful for who they are, simply because that’s they way God created them in unique acts of love. Recall those words with which God called the prophet Jeremiah:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you [Jer 1:5].

As God reminded Jeremiah, He has a plan for each of us. God has dedicated each one of us to some divine purpose. Of course, if you don’t believe in a loving, omniscient God who takes an active role in the lives of those he created — and, believe me, these cultural arbiters don’t — you will reject such thoughts and spurn the words of the Psalmist:

Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all. Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to reach...You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know [Ps 139:1-6,13-14].

I’ll say it again: to reject what God has created is to reject God. Glorify God for the unique person you are, for the person He made in love, the person He knit in the womb, and in prayer ask Him daily to reveal His plan for your unique life. For the same reason, glorify God for all those He has made, and pray that they, too, will come to accept His will for them. As St. Paul reminded Timothy:
This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth [1 Tim 2:4].
The truth? That’s Jesus Christ: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” [Jn 14:6]. He has shown us the Way: our Christian faith and our struggle to put it into practice by loving God and neighbor. The Truth is Jesus Himself and the Good News, the Word of God He preached. And the Life is eternal life, the salvation He wills for us. Our salvation, then, the promise of eternal life in the Presence of our God, dwarfs all the cares and worries and fears of this brief life on earth. Like most of us, I too struggle with this, but take consolation in another truth revealed to St. Paul:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose  [Rom 8:28].
Blessed, too, am I to have been born into a Catholic family that nurtured the seed of faith God planted within me at my Baptism. I can’t imagine living a life without the sacraments of the Church, without the Holy Spirit’s engines of grace. As for my ministry as a permanent deacon, that, too, was God’s decision, one I, at first, resisted. It hasn’t always been easy to become the servant when the world tries to lead me in the opposite direction. But God demonstrates His power in our lives, calls us to our weaknesses, and provides the grace we need to do His will. Like Our Blessed Mother, when we accept God’s will in humility, our souls will “proclaim the greatness of the Lord” [Lk 1:46]. Sometimes I feel a bit like Jonah, struggling to accept all that He calls me to do, and I usually have a pocketful of excuses to offer Him. He, of course, always wins this uneven conflict of wills.

Finally, my military background has helped to mold me into the man I am today. Like the vast majority of those who serve or have served in our armed forces, I despise war.  Although it might occasionally be necessary, the application of military power is something we should not choose capriciously. It seems only the politicians enjoy sending men and women into harm’s way, and far too often for political reasons that have little to do with national defense. I have always taken solace in Jesus’ praise of the peacemakers in the Beatitudes and His blessing of these “sons of God” [Mt 5:9]. We live in a world where evil abounds, and to reject the defense of God’s people is to me a foolish decision. 

So that’s me, folks, at least a small public piece of me. If the busybodies cancel me...we’ll, so be it. I’m not all that important. You and I and are not their primary targets. It’s God and His Church they will try to cancel, but God will have none of it.