About frjamesdiluzio

As a missionary priest, actor & singer, Paulist Fr. James DiLuzio developed a Mission/ Retreat entitled LUKE LIVE! Now in his 8th year traveling throughout the USA proclaiming Luke’s Gospel from memory with preaching and song meditations, his goal is to inspire , entertain and exemplify how we may more fully personalize and celebrate scripture in our lives. See www.LukeLive.com Throughout my mission/retreats, I offer many suggestions on how we may share our faith comfortably in all kinds of situations and contexts—highlighting the Paulist charism of Evangelization, Reconciliation, Multi-Faith and Ecumenical Dialogue.

Commentary on Luke 5:12 to 26

 (To Accompany Luke Live! Online! On YouTube.) 

Now we may reflect on these two powerful healing stories.  In the first we recognize Jesus is fearless in restoring the leper back to health and communion with others, for to allow another to be isolated without a tangible sense of belonging is an affront to the Kingdom.  Jesus in not afraid to touch the leper, to heal him and offer him acceptance back into community—this acceptance confirmed through Jesus’ order the cleansed man get official recognition from the priests.   All of this points to what makes Jesus’ healing unique among other healings: their purpose is not only to remove a sickness in an individual but in society at large.  For Christ, no suffering or illness is to alienate us from others but rather the community is urged to welcome and support everyone especially in his or her time of distress. Only this way can society redeem itself from pride and arrogance and those underlying fears that separate people and exacerbate suffering.  As we have noted earlier, Jesus does not want special recognition for this accomplishment, he thwarts celebrity status because his example is meant to be applied universally to all of humanity.  What may seem “special” in Jesus is meant to be the norm for all peoples.

The healing of the paralytic is significant in that it is the faith of the paralytic’s friends that evokes Jesus’ healing him.  Here we see how the faith of individuals impacts others and the incident evidences the bond that faith establishes between the healthy and the sick.  Furthermore, this healing exemplifies the interconnection of bodily and spiritual health and well-being.  Jesus is concerned with both because the human body and spirit are of one and the same entity, fulfilling the very design and intention of God.  Also, note that although on the surface it may seem there is a direct correlation between one’s sins and physical health, many scholars today interpret Jesus’ words “Your sins are forgiven” not to apply to the paralytic’s personal sins (which would indicate on some level that sickness is a punishment for sins—an ancient concept that Jesus refutes elsewhere in the Gospels) but rather “sins” here refers to the collective offenses of humankind grounded in denial of God and the inter-connectedness of all people and all creatures–all aspects of God’s creation.  It is true that our emotional and spiritual condition (that may encompass feelings of guilt, resentments, and regrets) does, in fact, impact our bodily health, but the Gospel gradually moves us away from that old sense that sickness is a direct punishment for individual sins.   (You may wish to consult Luke 13:1-5, Matthew 5: 45, John’s Gospel 9:1-3 and, of course, the entire book of Job—the innocent man who suffers not as a punishment for sins but simply because suffering exists in this world.)

Here, I would like to remind you of a GOLDEN RULE for encountering Scripture: Never take one passage and keep it isolated from other passages. Every segment of scripture evidences a stage in the people’s spiritual development which grows in sporadic leaps, and, at times, regresses to earlier insights. Therefore, the true value of a passage may only be discerned when segments on similar topics are place in conversation with them. Considering JOB and the Gospel verses cited above, it should be clear that Jesus is speaking about the universal SIN of worldliness devoid of attentiveness to God and God’s ways–something that all of us participate in often without realizing it. That is “the sin that is forgiven.” Moreover, may it not be lost on us that as “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” Jesus concretizes what his fellow Jews already knew and should have known better: God wants us to participate in God’s essence. God’s Forgiveness is to be expressed and lived out continually among all who see themselves as children of God. (I will address more on the complexity of the processes of forgiveness and the distinction between offering forgiveness and accepting abuse or tolerating evil in the weeks to come!)

Fourth Sunday of Advent in the Liturgical Year of 2020 – 2021

Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

“In the Bleak Mid-Winter frosty winds made moan

Earth stood hard as iron

Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow

In the Bleak Mid-Winter long ago.”   Christina Rossetti

Think back to the days of childhood. Was there ever enough snow?  Nothing bleak about a beautiful, bountiful snowfall. The rush to breakfast, dress for school, last minute homework –all activity suspended, all sound sublimated to silence: traffic stopped—no one is driving at all; no horns blowing, no cop whistles.  Maybe the sound of a foghorn announcing School is closed.  After that, all is still.   All is hushed.  Oatmeal never tasted so good as on a snowy morning.

There is an inner child in us all, in whom our hopes and dreams are ever-present –even now when we, fully grown-up, might grouse, bemoan the shoveling, the icy obstacles to our best laid plans.  Yet even we men and women, waking up to a frosty morn, pause perhaps for yet one more cup of coffee, a deep breath, a long sigh, maybe even a nostalgic note of youthful fantasies before embarking upon our day.

I still dream of bountiful snowfalls. For me, this week’s meager 8 inches were a major disappointment.  Don’t you, too, long for a change from “busy, busy, busy?”  Even when we plan an expected day off, we plan and schedule much too much.  We need more Snow to SURPRISE US, drift us into empty space, nothingness, empty vessels awaiting fulfillment from God.  TIMELESSNESS, dear friends, is true Spirituality: A CONSCIOUSNESS of immanence, of the presence, the power that sustains beating hearts, pulsating lungs.  Advent, now beginning its fourth week, has been calling us to just that kind of “slow down,” inviting us to question how we choose to live out our days.

In some ways, this pandemic has been and continues to be a kind of Advent, a slowing down, an ever-expanding snowy day. Blanketed in sickness and death for millions, with millions more grieving, yet not without hope, not without cultivating in many of us a desire for self-care equally aligned with care for our neighbors. 2020 has heightened our sensibilities to our mortality—as the Cross of Jesus has been doing for 2,000 years. This year, Nature Herself has compelled us to attend to the vulnerable because of our own vulnerabilities in the same way Advent prepares us for deeper insights into Jesus.  We, the remnant, the survivors of the year, should be filled with gratitude and, hopefully, now more than ever, appreciating interruption, inconvenience, postponement as the means to be present to one another, aware of “God With Us” in life and in death. And is not PRAYER a postponement?  It interrupts our activities, however, essential, however important we deem them to be.  Why, to many Catholics, even MASS is an inconvenience.  But dare I say, at its heart, Mass is a respite, a pregnant pause for God not unlike the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary –a marvelous interruption!   Mass can be our “Snowy Day.”  And the Gospel today reveals that our Blessed Mother was remarkably prepared for it!

Have you ever thought of this:  what were Mary’s goals, hopes, dreams beforeGabriel appeared?  What were her plans for her day?  I am sure she was set to do all that was expected of her– kindling the household fire, fetching water at the well, kneading dough, sweeping for a lost coin.  And what of her life’s ambition, her long-term objectives?  Marriage to a rabbi perhaps?  Or another man of equal status or position? Did Joseph match her expectations or was it a match arranged by her parents? How did she come to love Joseph?  What kind of home did she envision for herself and her husband?  Did she want a large family — children, adorable children bustling about home and hearth?   We tend not to acknowledge this basic, entirely human dimension of Mary’s story because we often rush to the end and take much for granted along the way.  

Clearly, our Blessed Mother was invited to postpone her plans just as we have and will continue to do because life will always assault us with interruptions!  Yes, “the best laid plans of mice and men!”  Mary was humble enough to be open, to be fluid and flexible because she evidently devoted considerable time in her days to stop and be still, for pregnant paused to ponder Scripture, Sacred Prophecies, Holy Days, and rituals –to be mindful of God.  Her assent to Gabriel’s announcement could only have come if she had already cultivated a prayerful pace for living. Taking time to affirm for herself that she could believe, she would believe in a promised Messiah, before knowing that she would be the chosen vessel of his Incarnation.

In these final days of Advent, I invite us to carefully, mindfully, cultivate a Snowy Day Sensibility, A Marian Spirituality to live mindfully, moment to moment in HOPE, cultivating Faith’s WISDOM.  Above all, that means we must reclaim and acclaim Jesus as our model for daily living, for we, too, are vessels of Christ’s presence in this world.  2020 has made us ever more attentive to the realities of our human condition. Mary’s assent that we need a Messiah needs to be ours, too. Pause. Ponder. Be Still. Know who you are, continue to hold in your heart all that we are celebrating Now, this day, and Christmas Day, and onward to eternity.  Let it snow!  Let it snow!  Let it snow!

Homily for 2nd Sunday of Advent Liturgical Year 2021


See the source image

Readings: Second Sunday of Advent | USCCB

Each of us are invited to embody aspects of the Scriptures, especially, of course, the life of Jesus. I repeat this adage frequently to myself:  Everything about the Life of Jesus is meant to inform my own life –Yours, too!  In his time, John the Baptist embodied Isaiah’s Prophecy: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill be made low;”

What do we make of Isaiah’s spiritual poetry?   What does it mean for mountains to be flattened and valleys smoothed?  Nothing less than all barriers to God are removed.  Images of tree lined paths upon the plains also remind us of the importance of humility, of being “grounded” in God. 

I found inspiration from a film I watched this week.  We live in a highly visually oriented culture, and most of us watch a considerable amount of films and television.  Therefore, we must keep what we watch in conversation with our faith.  The film I watched this time made it easy to do just that.  Entitled ‘THE HOLLY AND THE IVY,” this 1952 British film tells the story three adult children spending Christmas Day with their widowed father who happens to be the village parson.   These young adults have not lived model lives despite their father’s spiritual fervor and the strong morality and high ideals he impressed upon them.  It was not that dad was unsympathetic, nor was he an unforgiving man, yet the offspring never felt they could open their hearts and minds to their “Father” father.  From childhood to the very Christmas depicted in the film, they didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t express their difficulties, their hardships, mistakes, especially not their sins to Father Gregory for fear of causing him disappointment, or exasperating their guilt.  In this sense, “the mountains were too high,” the valleys too low.”  When, finally, the film reaches its climax and the children’s secrets are revealed, there is a powerful catharsis.  The mountains made low, the valleys filled, all from the freedom that comes from being known and understood. That, dear friends, is “the freedom of the children of God.”

The movie proved a great reminder to me that Goodness –however much we experience and strive for goodness –is not the same as “being REAL”—honest in our struggles with faith, hope and love.  Our religious practice must be grounded in “’down to earth” realities.  We are not called to flee in fear from confession, from Sacraments or from one another, but humbly acknowledge that while we strive to imitate Christ, holding ourselves accountable to righteousness and moral integrity,  we must accept each other for who we are and who we are not, refraining from judgment and condemnation in order to say to one another, “I understand,” “I, too, am tempted,”  “I too have failed.”

Do you see why we needed John the Baptist to prepare us for Christ?  Do you see how repentance and forgiveness are the path to Jesus? To encounter Christ, we need to be flattened out!  We need to be open, trusting.  We need to be REAL in order to be GOOD; not only to prepare ourselves for Christmas, but to live the lives our Savior intends us to live.

Optional Second Ending: May we resolve this very day –now with two Advent Candles lighting [JD1] our way– to support one another in prayer, uphold one another in the sacramental life, affirm our need for ongoing forgiveness, to live Christian hope and fortitude.  Indeed, allowing honesty and reconciliation to make straight our path to Jesus, we may indeed address the wrongs we commit and our world’s dysfunction.  Both. Truly.  And remember the path we are walking on is the stairway to heaven.  


 [JD1]

A Homiletic Poem for the First Sunday of Advent 2020 by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

A flickering candle in a darkened room.  The light is golden, the flame, gentle. It beckons.  It even seems to desire us and say, “Come, to my light!”  Still, it does not speak of its own accord, for a candle is but a sign—a sign for something, rather, Some One whose voice spoke long ago, “Be not afraid.” The Light Shines in the darkness and darkness shall not overcome it!  Yes, it is only one candle, but sufficient to point to the One who is humble of heart, who is neither too much, nor too little, who is the Eternal NOW. 

Let’s face it. Without Him, this world is too much for us.  It always was and always will be.  Indeed, right now, some people are too much for us! The stores are too much, the carols too ubiquitous already!  We haven’t even learned our Advent Hymns—not after all these years.  Maybe one. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  But heavens!  There are dozens more, each with a lesson for our souls.  We have 25 days.  Get started!

Advent offers much on its own, insisting that we live with longing for better days while attentive to Christ Past, Christ Present and Christ Future. If we let Him, Christ will cultivate in us a daily receptiveness to grace, fortifying in us perpetual patience to live one moment at a time, one day a time, one difficulty at a time.  Of course, there is temptation to light all the candles now!  But we must not!  One must be sufficient for today. We need the patience of Jesus now more than ever–and only we can choose to cultivate it.  Savor it. Allow the True Light of Jesus to enlighten our minds in one singular, sweet, deep breath—that’s all that matters now.  Breathe! Just Breathe!  And look to the candle!  If you cannot see it, imagine the flame! Let it warm your heart!

From this single flame, let Jesus convey Himself to you. Allow Him to penetrate your very being.   “Be still” but do not be stoic. Be firm in faith but with a faith that is fluid, too, fluid as Creation, as fluid as Advent which moves us backward and forward in time while living “in the moment” at the very same time. 

The First Sunday of Advent insists we embark on a voyage of memory to learn from our ancestors’ mistakes and our own; to admit that, yes, while we would all rather run away from all that bothers us today—and so much bothered us this year, and still does–Christ is behind us, Christ is beside us, Christ is before us perpetually offering the better way.

Allow Christ to take us far, far, farther back in time, to see this single flame as part of the one Eternal Flame, of Time before Time –long before we have had to prove ourselves or defend ourselves to anyone, before we had to make enemies of others to feel better about ourselves or worse, play the victim—for when we compare ourselves to true victims, we are not true victims at all.  But hope abides by going back beyond our pasts to the origin of the molecules that make up the wonder of you, of me, of everybody–of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen that long before we came on the scene, formed stars imploding, exploding!  Stars that in time, so much time—expanded their molecules to mix with molten ash and salty seas, and water ways flowing  from fresh, clear mountain ice –plants convoking convocations of creatures, primitive and primary, who came upon dry land to feast upon leaves, fruits and berries, multiplying, diversifying, evolving until, at last, with beating hearts and expanding brains: humanity . Thus, our ancestors came into consciousness and full human existence.  But not for our sake alone.  Not for aggrandizement, not for power, nor subjugation of fawn, field, or flower, nor to vanquish fellow beings—but to yield through hundreds of thousands of years to the ONE, to YIELD to the one who was and who is the pinnacle, the purpose of all creation—the ONE through Whom We Were Formed who humbly appeared in time —so that we may perceive in time and space–the perfect synthesis of Human and Divine: the Man God: Jesus the Christ.  Let these truths, THIS CHRIST — put all our issues in proper perspective.

Advent beckons back to such great beginnings and thrusts us into present realities. It invites us to marvel at God’s constancy and patience—through the people of the Bible, through the scandal of divisions of our time — precisely to clear our minds of all the cobwebs and shadows that distract us from our humble origins and our divine objectives. Yes, heaven is the goal, but it is to be lived out in harmony with every living thing; in humble gratitude for the distinctiveness that came to us only in time, GOD’S TIME, and with a God WHO IS NOT YET FINISHED WITH US!  We ignore that to our detriment and to our peril.   Sure, we can wallow in the wounds of this year or we can push forward – but let it not be in accordance with our will, our games of “hide and seek,” but in accordance with the Will of the True God revealed through Scripture and Sacrament:  A Living Christ Among Us.

  Too often we refuse to acknowledge how much we forestall, postpone, delay our spiritual, emotional, intellectual growth—yes, all of these in harmony and balance is what true holiness is.   Advent is a Seasonal Gift that says: Stop! Stay! Do not run away! Our problems will follow us wherever we go. Slowly surrender to Jesus so that we may abide imperfect people and recognize that in our own imperfect, unappreciated selves, Christ never abandons us, bestowing on us peace and perseverance through any and every provocation—not so unlike those He himself from infancy to death endured!  Yes, each in our own way and time are unappreciated.  Yet how much more unappreciated was He!   So, again, the Church commits us to a new year to patiently ponder our origins in Christ. May we not make ourselves so important, our guilts and grievances so great that we neglect our humble beginnings or forsake the One suffered for us, suffers with us, and offers something eternally new.  

Look around!  Look around!  Who did Christ intend you to see?  You took a step into this church—a building and a people. One more step forward is all that is needed to find communion.  Soon, and very, very soon, you will be welcomed to walk up the aisle to receive Jesus and to perceive through Him, the true purpose for why we are here: For when you return from receiving the Eucharist, others will be revealed to you:   Christ receivers, all. Christ perceivers, all. Christ bearers —Imperfect, impractical, impudent, nasty, selfish, mean-spirited, awful people—as each of us in turn can be. Welcome to Jesus’ world!  Yet this, too, is meant to be a comfort to us –this vision of others. For truly, we are not alone in our sins. Do not worry! Be happy! Misery loves company!  But more than that, more than that, in Christ, all that is miserable in us remains in a continuous Process of Redemption.  Conversion today! Conversion tomorrow and the next day!  It is Resurrection now! And Our God will never let the transformation stop!   Like with every married couple: for better, for worse, God bestows me upon you, you upon me, and everybody upon everybody else to become a communion of Saints-in-the-making just as sure as Jesus called Disciples long ago. Remember this: Our Savior was not a private tutor.  Our acceptance of Jesus as “Our Personal Lord and Savior” will only go so far because He is a Universal Savior!  The Cosmic Christ!  Remember that.

May we be satisfied this day with waiting for Christ as we attend to Christ in others; enjoying one candle at a time; one good friend at a time; one faithful spouse, one grateful child, niece or nephew at a time; one particular beloved Saint, one relative or loved one already in heaven—Yes, one at a time to remind us of our perpetual communion with Saints and Sinners as Christ affords us the patience to put up with one another until Christ is all in all. Let that be enough to bring Christ to us today, tomorrow and the next day. One Advent at a time, one moment at a time.  One day at a time. Why, “That Day” is TODAY! And let this day, this day, be glorious!   

Suggestions for a Prayerful Thanksgiving (And FUN!)

BEFORE THE DAY BEGINS:  

  • Set DVR to pre-record Thanksgiving Day parade(s) and Football Games; pre-record or purchase/rent CHARLIE BROWN THANKSIVING or other cartoons
  • Book or Paper Copy of OVER THE RIVER & THROUGH THE WOODS by Lydia Maria Child * and other Autumn / Thanksgiving Poems such as The MIST & ALL (Keep aside until DESERT COURSE)
  • Community Games to Have on Hand:  Charades, Pictionary, Balderdash
  • A Card Table with Index Cards & pens/pencils, a Small Basket or Shoebox and One Sheet of Paper with these 2 “Treasured Gifts” Questions printed:
    • “What experience this year do I treasure most?”     
    •  “What gift have I received from last Birthday or Christmas to date that I still enjoy?”
  • Music via CD, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube (See item IX below)

II   DURING ARRIVALS and /or Hors D’oeuvres: Invite everyone to print on an index card or post-it their response to this question: “What experience have I treasured most this year?”  and /or “What gift have I received from last Thanksgiving or Christmas to date that I still enjoy?”  Place these “Treasured Gifts” papers in a small basket and place the basket on or near the dining table. During the first course, guests will try to guess who wrote what.

III TRADITIONAL GRACE “PLUS” Each guest identifies how they feel today using one “Feeling Word.” (“Happy,” “Sad,” “Thankful,” “Frustrated,” etc.)  No judgments allowed! Then, pray: “Dear God, Here We Are–Our family and friends–and these are the feelings we bring to this Thanksgiving Day.  Helps us understand the beautiful way You accept each us as we are. Make us confident in your love so that we may be at peace and feel your presence among us.  Help us to make the most of this meal, this day, and our time together.”  Then invite everyone to join in the Traditional Grace before Meals, OR if your company is of mixed religions, substitute the Christian Grace with this: “Blessed are YOU, Source of Life, God known by so many names, help us to experience GRATITUDE, for gratefulness is the pathway to mutual affection and the road to peace. Bless our Meal and our Conversation. Amen.”

III         FIRST COURSE ACTIVITY (Soup/Salad/Antipasto): Treasured Gifts: Each person takes a paper and reads it aloud. Guests try to guess who wrote it—i.e. match the statement with its author.  Once guessed, invite the person to share why he or she is thankful for this gift. 

IV         DURING THE MAIN MEAL: Invite each Guest to share his or her memories of the best Thanksgiving OR ANY SPECIAL MEAL that they have ever experienced and why it is an important memory for him or her.

V          AFTER THE MAIN MEAL PRAYER:  Thanksgiving is a Day of Gratitude which is a Day of Prayer. Before we take a break, I invite us to share our prayers for one another and others.  For whom and what should we pray?” Close with Psalm 121.

VI         AFTER MEAL WALKS & PRE-DESSERT CLEAN UPS: Postpone desert and encourage Physical Activity: walks outdoors or help in the kitchen if weather does not permit, Football fans can catch up on the game; Others PLAY COMMUNITY GAMES and/or access your DVR for the recorded PARADE(s) or Cartoons. 

VII       DURING DESERT:   

  1. Together recall the Thanksgiving Poem: Over the River and Through the Woods –After everyone has had a try reciting or singing a verse, pass around the copy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over_the_River_and_Through_the_Wood
  2. Invite guests to share any favorite poems, rhymes, riddles or Autumn memories.

VIII      EVERYONE JOINS IN FOR FINAL CLEAN UP (OR, if space limitations in the kitchen, create Two Teams:  Those who go for walks and/or into the living room; and those who help in the Kitchen.  Try to have each team mixed with all ages, both men/woman/boys/girls if possible.  Each team memorizes OVER THE RIVER—as many verses as possible. Afterwards, gather together and see which Team remembers the most. 

IX         SOCIAL TIME:

  • Community Games to Have on Hand:  Charades, Pictionary, Balderdash
    • Dancing: Access Music via CD, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube
      • Old Fashioned WALTZ; I recommend “O Mio Babbino Caro” sung by Kiri Tekanawa (CD: Kiri Te Kanawa Sings Verdi & Puccini Arias;
      • Celebrate Married Couples with “I Dreamed of You” by Barbra Streisand: (CD Barbra Streisand: A Love Like Ours;

X          Farewells As each person prepares to leave, ask if they would like a final Thanksgiving

Blessing.  If yes, the Hosts may place their hands on each guest’s head or shoulders and

pray the PRIESTLY BLESSING from the Book of Numbers, Chapter 6: 24-26:

The Lord bless you and keep you!  The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace! “Conclude with “Safe home!  Godspeed!  God bless!”

OPTIONAL CHARITABLE COMPONENT TO THANKSGIVING DAY: INVTIE GUESTS TO BRING A SINGLE $ 1. BILL for each member of his or her family or party to participated in a PLEASE & THANK YOU GAME. Designate a charity and let them know what the dollars are for in advance OR have everyone vote on one of two or three choices before Grace (E.G, Catholic Charities for Puerto Rico Relief or Catholic Relief Services or Unicef.) Have some extra $1. bills around for those who forget.). The FIRST TIME anyone forgets to say Please” or “Thank You,” from the beginning of the Meal (after Grace) to end of dinner (i.e. “please pass the potatoes; thank you), he or she gets a WARNING.  The SECOND TIME he or she must surrender their dollar into a basket. Proceeds go to the previously announced charity. At the end of the day, people may contribute the Remaining Dollars or additional $ if they wish to the cause.   

More Details at https://frjamesdiluzio.com/2017/11/18/keeping-thanksgiving-spirit-filled/ 

Lydia Maria Child’s OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS

To Accompany Fr. James DiLuzio Facebook and YouTube videos reciting and singing the same

Over the river and through the wood,

    To grandfather’s house we go;

         The horse knows the way

         To carry the sleigh

    Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood–

    Oh, how the wind does blow!

         It stings the toes

         And bites the nose,

    As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood,

    To have first-rate play.

         Hear the bells ring,

         “Ting-a-ling-ding!”

    Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,

    And straight through the barn-yard gate.

         We seem to go

         Extremely slow–

    It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood–

    Now grandmother’s cap I spy!

         Hurrah for the fun!

         Is the pudding done?

    Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (1983)

These are variations:

The original piece had twelve stanzas, though only four are typically included in the song.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood—
and straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”

Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

The following verses appear in a “long version”:

Over the river, and through the wood,
with a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark, and children hark,
as we go jingling by.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding!”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood,
no matter for winds that blow;
Or if we get the sleigh upset
into a bank of snow

Over the river, and through the wood,
to see little John and Ann;
We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball
and stay as long as we can.

Over the river, and through the wood,
trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound!
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells.
He shakes his pow, with a loud bow-wow,[1]
and thus the news he tells.

Variations from http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Over_the_River_and_Through_the_Wood

Homily by Father James on the Gospel of Luke 15: 1-10 The Lost Sheep

Daily Scripture Readings may be accessed here: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/110520.cfm

Usually when we hear the Parable of the Lost Sheep we think of other people –the relatives and friends who have left the Church, the people in prison for embezzlement, fraud, or violence, or those without any faith.  Today, however, I invite us to see ourselves as Lost Sheep, too, but as people whose faith affirms that Jesus will come and find us.

When we who receive the sacraments hold on to resentments, and brood over injuries—we are Lost Sheep.

When we pass judgment on others especially those who do not vote as we do, think as we do, live as we do—and we want to send them all to hell in a handbasket, we are Lost.

When we are absorbed with “compassion fatigue,” and refuse to hear one more story of anyone or group suffering or victimized, or worse, when we want to blame the victims, we are Lost.

When we despair and believe that nothing good will ever happen again—we are Lost.

Today, we must appreciate faith’s reality that Jesus comes looking for us.  We depend upon Him. We need Him.  For even in our commitment to faith, we delude ourselves that our attitudes are righteous, when, in fact, we are not Christ-like at all.  As we approach the Eucharist today, may we cry out to Jesus: “Here I am Lord. Find me here!” The Good News is Jesus has found us in the past, He is with us now, and he find us again and again and again. For we, the faithful, too, often lose our way. Come, Lord Jesus! Find us here. Inspire us to do your will.   

The Way of Christ toward Friend and Foreigner

Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A Highlighting Exodus and Matthew (All Readings featured at the conclusion of the homily)

At the invitation of the Paulist Father’s National Office on Ecumenical and Multi—Faith Relations I have recently become a Board Member for RELIGIONS FOR PEACE, (RFP) USA with its offices here at the United Nations.

This week RFP conducted an online symposium on Immigration and Refugees that was provocative and inspiring.  Is it Providence or coincidence that having participated in the 5-session symposium this week, I found that our Reading from the Book of EXODUS explicitly addresses how we are to treat foreigners in our midst?  You tell me!   But let me tell you, how often I heard representatives of different faith repeat in their own words, from their own faith traditions, words so closely aligned to those of Jesus we heard today “Love of God and Neighbor as ourselves.”  These two commandments are the constants meant to be observed in every Christian’s life.  Still, the purpose for which God bestowed these laws upon us has yet to be fulfilled because along with grace, sin is always in evidence.

Yet, we have come to mass to be humbled—have we not?  We have come to be grateful for charity, generosity.  Indeed, the largess of the human heart continues to pervade our world. Grateful that, wherever we are on our faith journey, whatever our attitudes toward foreigners, immigrants, or any people unlike ourselves may be, God gives us yet another chance for conversion, for transformation, for renewed commitment to the Great Commandments.

I would like to share a story told by Rev. Bill Jenkins, of Christ Ministry Center in San Diego and his alliance with the United Methodist Refugee Assistance Program– a wonderful sign of HOPE for us all: In 2009, a great and terrible Earthquake devasted Haiti. With lives lost, and so many homeless with no signs of constructive reconstruction, all seemed hopeless. Yet through Providence or because of sheer mercenary considerations, Representatives of Brazil’s government travelled to Haiti.  They recruited some 46,000 Haitians to work in Brazil, to prepare for and maintain the 2016 Summer Olympics.

When the Olympics were over, however, the Brazilian economy collapsed, the Brazilian president impeached, and the Haitians who had made their homes there, with babies who were born there, were ordered to leave. Meanwhile, the living situations in Haiti went from bad to worse. Thousands had no reason or justification to return home.  So, the Brazilian Haitians began a march through that country– some by foot, some with carts, and on through Central America to find homes elsewhere. Crossing 11 borders, they were mistreated by each successive country: spat upon, ridiculed, and bullied; women were raped, men were killed.  Despite this, many found ways to remain in one Latin American country after another as day laborers and harvesters.

 It came to pass that 600 Haitian men, women and children made it to Tijuana, Mexico to apply to the US Immigration Court in San Diego.  There, their passports were stamped, and they were told to return in four months’ time for their individual court hearings. Not welcomed back into Tijuana, and not understanding English or Spanish (native language is French and Creole), they kept themselves in small groups and slept in San Diego’s streets and outdoor malls awaiting their turn.   

Now it so happened that there was already a small contingency of Haitians in Rev. Bill Jenkins’ San Diego Methodist Church. When they heard of their fellow countrymen’s plight on the streets, the Haitian church members drove through their city to find them.  Over the course of a few days, the Methodists found all 600, offering them food and shelter in their (fortunately large) church, with space enough for all to sleep in the pews at night. News of the Methodist’s hospitality spread and in five months, 5,000 Haitians came through the Center–not at all at once, of course, but as many as could be assisted at one time as they awaited their Court appearances. Other organizations stepped in to help, although, initially, no one was able to provide decent temporary homes or apartments.  Instead, more church pews and basements were opened for nightly shelter.

         Today San Diego Churches and other organizations have expanded their refugee ministries to include a network of temporary housing– all because of the Haitians’ stories and the witness of the Methodist Church. The biblical mandate from the Book of Exodus was and continues to be fulfilled by people of faith there. And here’s a touching footnote:  five years ago, when all this began, Rev. Bill Jenkins and his wife, at the age of 68, took in an 8-month-old boy separated from his mother somewhere between Tijuana and Sand Diego.  He is now their adopted son, Harry, and recently Harry’s birth mother was able to locate them and now all three adults are raising Harry together.

Beyond the San Diego story, there are legions of stories of compassion from the efforts of our very own Catholic Relief Services, local Catholic Charities in here in New York and in cities throughout our nation and the world.  The number of agencies for immigrants and refugees are legion.  There’s Amnesty International, World Vision USA, Jesuit Refugee Services, and dozens of other faith and secular based asylum initiatives.   I got a taste of some of these this week, but all of them repeatedly impressed upon me this truth: Most immigrants don’t flee their countries of origin because they desire “a better life,” most flee in fear because they just want to be able to LIVE!   

I’m not taking up a collection today for Catholic Relief Services or Catholic Charities but I think that it is important to remind us that as the governments of the world continue to argue as to what can be done, what can’t be done, what won’t be done for the neglected, the weary, the poor of this world, by the grace of God, people of many different faiths are upholding the Golden Rule.  We may take heart today that Good News is a reality and will continue to be a reality because of us, good people of faith.

So, now you have heard the Scriptures and one example of how FAITH COMES ALIVE! As we approach the altar to receive Jesus Christ again, may this Eucharist inspire us to persevere in making the Good News a living reality. I will close with this passage from the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 4:  

Book of Wisdom Chapter 4

My child, do not mock the life of the poor;
    do not keep needy eyes[a] waiting.
Do not grieve the hungry,
    nor anger the needy.
Do not aggravate a heart already angry,
    nor delay giving to the needy.
A beggar’s request do not reject;
    do not turn your face away from the poor.
From the needy do not turn your eyes;
    do not give them reason to curse you.
If in their pain they cry out bitterly,
    their Rock, (our God) will hear the sound of their cry.

THE SCRIPTURE READINGS

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: EX 22:20-26

Thus, says the LORD:
“You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. 
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry. 
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

“If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him. 
If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. 
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”
 

Responsorial Psalm

PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.

Reading 2: 1 THES 1:5C-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. 
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything. 
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Alleluia

JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: MT 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Luke Live Online Commentary: Luke 2: 21-40

In this section you will hear about Mary and Joseph observing the Mosaic Laws, dedicating their son to God and later, including him as a 12-year-old in the Passover celebrations at the great temple in Jerusalem.   I invite you to connect these stories to your experiences of sacraments of initiation—Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation—and/or other rituals and rites of passage such as bris, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, pilgrimages of any and every kind, be it to Lourdes or Jerusalem or Mecca or the Taj Mahal.  In addition, you may want to discuss your sensibilities about biblical prophecies and other forms of prophecy be they premonitions or hopes or expectations for yourself and for children in your life. 

Let’s explore with greater emphasis the benefits and burdens of rituals in our lives.  Sometimes we are drawn to them, sometimes they evoke ambivalence, and sometimes we anticipate them and flee!  Yet, we would be hard pressed not to allow some concrete explanations of their value.  In essence, rituals make public the inner personal dynamics and choices people make.  They affirm our inter-connectedness, that we belong to a people, a group, a faith or country, and, in terms of Christian Sacraments, that we belong to God and are part of Jesus’ story, perpetuating his love and truth throughout our lives.

Rituals make evident that we depend upon one another for support in life’s passages with all their corresponding joys and sorrows. I hope you take some time to use Luke’s brief but richly condensed portrait of Jesus’ childhood as a springboard for appreciating and understanding rituals in your lives.

          One of Luke’s primary purposes here is to show how Jesus and his parents are rooted in Judaism and are faithfully attentive to the God of Israel.  We also have here a wonderful example of the importance of multi-generations of faith and how the young and the old benefit from interacting with one another.  Many complain we no longer have true wisdom figures like Simeon and Anna among our seniors today.  Is that true or are we simply not paying attention to the elderly?  Or, if our seniors are feeling weary, maybe it’s because we do not draw them out, energizing them with our inquiries and interest.  And as for Simeon’s and Anna’s words—would that we all long for peace, consolation and the redemption of the world as they did.  What do we need from one another today to keep that hope alive?

Meditating on PROVIDENCE

I invite you to see my latest Luke Live Online! on YouTube and the reflection on the hand of God in all things to rejuvenate, transform, make good on the human condition and the vagaries of Nature. Faith –all the great faiths of the world invite trust in Providence. Every birth is willed by God –not its imperfections or illnesses–as a beginning toward transformation in this world of seeing, feeling, touching, being into an eternal communion. Go to:

Here’s a copy of the poem I read around in The Atlantic issue September 2018. The poem is by Carl Dennis and may be found in his collection NIGHT SCHOOL.

PROVIDENCE 

By Carl Dennis from his collection NIGHT SCHOOL 

PROVIDENCE seems to be one of the words

That shouldn’t be mourned as it falls from fashion.

Goodbye to the notion that whatever happens

Is meant to happen, foreseen and approved

By a thoughtful heaven.  A word that’s proven

Invaluable to the privileged when they’ve cautioned

The less-than-privileged to be content

With the portion that happenstance has assigned them. 

It’s the work of providence that you were born

To a sharecropping family on a hardscrabble farm,

Not to the family that owns the land. 

Goodbye to the word, and yet its disappearance

Might make it harder for the sharecropper’s daughter

To explain to her husband’s wealthy parents

Her reluctance to take a pill guaranteed

To make the baby boy she’s soon to bear

More handsome and clever than he would be otherwise.

Providential, meaning the baby for her

Is a gift meant to be welcomed as is, not a kit

To be assembled at home in the latest style.

A gift whether or not he later looks back

On his birth as providential or as a simple

Piece of good luck, providing him with a mother

Who would urge him to do the work

That pleased him most,

Work she believed he was meant to do. 

For more Commentary and Reflection on Luke 2, go to:

Commentary # 1 on Luke 2: 8-10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TeQ5jkm2Uc&list=OLAK5uy_kSpuk0fEKreIIDqDkJpGy2fzWsBz7hJ2I&index=10 Additional Reflections on Jesus’ Birth follow in Commentary # 2 and # 3 Below.REPLY

Commentary # 2: MORE reflections: The Angels Sing for You, too! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoA1mPC1g1w&list=OLAK5uy_kSpuk0fEKreIIDqDkJpGy2fzWsBz7hJ2I&index=11REPLY

ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3KB__57iYWVIvWsnmIyPow

1. What was your experience of applying ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH to your birth?  

2.  For Christians, combining stories of Jesus’ birth and our births confirms our belief that His story is ours, and our stories are His.  The result: the very best of who we are reflects “Christ in us” to others.  Did the song exercise help you own that?  Why or why not?

3. For listeners of other faiths or philosophies, what song (and /or literature) would you use to affirm your birth, your goodness–the best of who you are? In what ways do you understand your scriptures to point to the ways you understand yourselves?

4. For Christians, what about our belief that God shares in all aspects of being human with us through Jesus, brings you the most comfort?  The most? What aspects of this belief that we call “The Incarnation” may challenge you or trouble you?