Homily for 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Fr. James DiLuzio

WISDOM comes with humility — a HOMILY  17th Sunday Fr. James DiLuzio

I watched a film this week that offered a scathing indictment of the American experience. Its plot and its characters make a good case that our nation was founded on violence, ravishment, prejudice, and greed. It reminded me of how these forces remain operative today, permeating the national psyche and our daily lives. 

I also watched a news program about the military interventions in Portland, Oregon these past weeks and the commentator said, “neve have we seen military force use tear gas against American citizens.”  I gasped.  Was he too young to know of the tear gas and violence police and military used against African Americans in Selma and on college campuses in the 1960’s? 

Of course, none of these examples represent the entire story of America, nor do they acknowledge the virtues evident in so many of her citizens.  On the positive side, everyone should know that the US military escorted nine African American students into Central High School in Little Rock AK in 1957 to keep them safe from white natives’ protests. Still, why did this have to happen if not that for somewhere deep in the national psyche hatred, prejudice, inducement to violence and economic oppression lingered still?  

These remain the questions of our times, the context of our lives today in the US of A and they must give us pause. “Why,” you ask?  Because the issues raised by BLACK LIVES MATTER and #ME TOO and the sexual abuse scandals and power plays in the Church, in our government and all realms of power demand it.  And because that is what our parables today invite us to ponder.

Why sell everything one has for a treasure buried in a field, if not to clear one’s life of all that is wrong, sinful, superficial of little or no value and start again, begin anew with treasure that is of immense importance?

Why sell all one’s jewelry business to obtain a pearl beyond price if not to rethink how one lives one’s life better, to nurture and polish what is good and abandon what is wrong?

In 1964 Bob Dylan wrote a song called THE TIMES ARE A-CHANGING but it is very clear that the times have not changed enough, for what goes around, comes around again and again until we finally strike at the roots of evil.

This should come as no surprise to people of faith. From the Fall, to the stiff-necked people who were our biblical ancestors, to the apostles who fled from Jesus in his time of crises, we humans have often sought retreat than the hard work of change. 

And yet throughout our God burned with zeal for our souls, sent the Holy Spirits’ Refining Fire prophesized by Malachi in the 5th century before Jesus, renewed by John the Baptist and fulfilled in Jesus’ Beatitudes–simple extensions of the 2 Great Commandments that we have yet to follow fully. Ultimately, he sent the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to move the Commandments and the Beatitudes forward.

Jesus perpetuates this refiner’s fire, this Pentecost fire, in all the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. For the Eucharist continues to keep purging us of temptations to the evil of the world—an evil that often rationalizes all the great sins of prejudice, greed, and violence as the bottom line when push comes to shove.

In the heat of this summer, this awful pandemic , when we are prone to thinking ‘every man, woman and child for himself / herself,” and encountering all that is wrong with our society, our economy, our history and are very selves—of course, we can get weary of al the criticism.  But we must not!  We do so at our own peril, at the risk of abandoning the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated.

Today, as every day, we the faithful must resolve to be led by Jesus to engage in prayer and in acts of kindness and compassion. Indeed, I see you before me and I gain confidence, that, YES, we are here to allow the Fire of the Spirit to refine us in faith, hope, and love. Jesus is with us, so we need not ever default to the status quo, but instead throw off our defensiveness to embrace the One Savior who is meek and humble of heart but also strong and courageous to right the wrongs of today. This Eucharist will rekindle the fire of faith in us to accompany Jesus in his quest for true liberty and justice for all. Believe!

Here are the Scripture Reading for Today:

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 109                                

Reading 1    1 KGS 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered:
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

Responsorial Psalm

PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. (97a) Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Lord, I love your commands.

Reading 2    ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

Alleluia CF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:44-52 OR 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Homily: Listen, Love, Act!

Readings: Hosea 8 HOS 8:4-7, 11-1 ; PSALM115:3-4, 5-6, 7AB-8,-10 ; Gospel: Matthew MT 9:32-3

In the Gospel Jesus drives out a demon who has made a man mute.  We don’t know how the man had become possessed.  We don’t know if he participated in evil or cultivated it. Jesus doesn’t berate him for any of those things. We must then, presume the man’s innocence. He’s was a victim of a demons–Demons who represents all the things that are not of God—fear, hatred, abandonment, neglect. 

Jesus lived his life on earth always in the present moment, attentive to God and the people at hand. Of course, he drives out the demon—no questions asked because he is establishing a Kingdom of the Now and of the Future.  In brief, something was wrong, someone was suffering. Jesus addressed it. 

Our times are a ‘changing.  The wrongs and the sufferings of the African American community are more evident than they have been for decades (although the injustices go back much farther).   Happily, there are signs of true Christianity emerging; Signs that resonate with Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Americans who are labeled “white” – me included–are starting to pay attention; listening and learning in ways most of our Baby Boomer generation and subsequent generations have not.  This is grace in action. The Kingdom of God comes when we open our minds to Jesus who insisted on the Cross that no one who suffers suffer in silence, no victim remains mute.  Why else would he have spoken Seven Last Sentences to us from the Cross? 

As disciples we pledge to listen to Jesus and so we must pledge to hold back any defensiveness, refrain from excuses and listen, listen to the African American Experience, just as we have been listening to the women of the ME-TOO EXPERIENCE. Both are in our midst but the life and death reality is certainly greatest in the Black community right now. 

Matthew literally writes of Jesus’ “Pity for the crowds.” When we get angry and upset, don’t we want people to “have pity on us?”  Don’t we?  We want to be heard and understood, don’t we? We get angry all the time in our homes, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods.  And what do we expect?  We want a listening ear, an opened heart, someone with patience, willing to understand? 

Who hasn’t experiences in his or her own home, angry voices even physical anger evidenced by holes in our walls –fist-punched plaster; plates crashed upon the floor?  We all know this just doesn’t happen in the movies.  And haven’t we learned by now that when we focused on the broken materials we never got to the cause of the anger, never got to the root of the dysfunctions displayed? If we cooperated with grace, we learned that only by Listening and/or seeking outside help –objective listeners, concerned, caring listeners—would we / could we prove we loved one another –assuring that mother/ brother/ father/ sister/ didn’t suffer in silence.  No one should.

If we have these expectations within our families and recognize the sources of our own angers come from being neglected, disrespected, put-upon, oppressed—then we must offer what we expect, what we need from our family to others: Listening hearts, open minds. 

We’ve been deaf to the sufferings of the Black communities for too long.  We sequestered ourselves, gated ourselves, segregated ourselves –how few of us have Black Americans among our families and friends, live in our neighborhoods? It’s time we listen and find out WHY and HOW this came to be?  There’s no one easy or single answer, which is we have to listen and, like Jesus, be part of the healing power that can foster the Kingdom of God.   As Catholic we need to ask, how can we expect Jesus to listen to our prayers when we negate or avoid the prayers of others?  Jesus calls us to an all-inclusive communion.  The time for communion is now. 

Playing with PETER PAN amidst Pandemic 2020* Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

* PLAYING PLAY DOCTOR (or Lyricist Doctor if you prefer)

*See Endnote

Back in 2014, I was anticipating NBC’s live presentation of the 1954 musical PETER PAN (December 4, 2014). The original cast with Mary Martin as well as the original story of PETER PAN by James M. Barrie was a childhoot favorite. Valuing my childhood memories, I reviewed and researched the score.  I found that the original composers of the musical, Mark Charlap and Carolyn Leigh, wrote a beautiful song for Peter Pan in Act 2 when he, Wendy and the boys are in their underground sanctuary. Entitled “When I Went Home” it tells of Peter’s one and only attempt to return to his home in London. That song was replaced in previews with a song by Jules Styne/Comden/Green “Distant Melody” – a response to Wendy’s request for Peter to sing a lullaby. 

Unlike “Distant Melody” (lovely in its own right), “When I Went Home” provides a significant insight into Peter’s ongoing rebellion toward home, family and growing up.  Although the melody to “When I Went Home” is strikingly haunting, I sensed the lyrics (featured below) a bit awkward, although consistently poignant. You may listen to a rendition of the song sung by Allison Williams on the NBC broadcast:

Here are the original lyrics so you may follow along with Ms. Williams’ performance:

WHEN I WENT HOME Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh Music by Mark Charlap

Lovely, right?  Still, I found a more haunting, instrumental version of the song onthe DELOS compact disc entitled AN AWFULLY BIG ADVENTURE (Songs from various Peter Pan productions).  Track 12 features a stunning new arrangement by Donald Fraser.  I think Fraser’s choice of key signature (A flat) is far more affecting than the key of A –the song’s original setting.

Now for some fun:

When I heard Donald Fraser’s arrangement, I thought to myself: “This is perfect!” so, I composed a revised lyric based on some of the subtle changes Fraser made in the melodic line.  If you can get hold of the Delos CD then my lyric changes will make even more sense.

Here is my “Revised” version (Without permissions I may add!): Footnotes explain my choices.

WHEN I WENT HOME

Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and Music by Mark Charlap

New and Additional Lyrics by James M. DiLuzio

INTRO (These words set to the Instrumental Intro that was not featured in the song): 

  • PETER: I shall tell you about what happened when I flew back to the house in London —
  • When I went home,
  • I thought that certainly
  • The nursery window would – for sure![1] – be opened wide for me[2]
  • And there would always be A welcome light[3] 
  • When I went home
  • I counted so upon
  • A mother waiting up to question me just me where I’d gone.
  • And we’d talk on and on –
  • I’d be all right.[4]
  • You see, when I went home,
  • I found that, sad to say, 
  • You must expect to be forgotten once you’ve run away[6]
  • And so I couldn’t stay 
  • That lonely night
  • When I went home.[7]
  • REPEATS
  • When I went home I counted so upon 
  • Somebody waiting up to ask me questions on and on 
  • To ask me where I’d gone– 
  • Was I all right? 
  • But the window was barred, and the door was barred And I felt such an awful dread 
  • And – for sure – there he was! That other boy 
  • Was sleeping in my bed! 
  • Oh yes, (you see), when I went home, I found that, sad to say, 
  • You must expect to be forgotten once you’ve gone away, 
  • And so I couldn’t stay 
  • That awful night When I went home. 
  • I was forgotten. 
  • When I went home.

Now, if this song were to reappear in the play, where would I place it?  I am thinking of two possibilities:

  1. Directly after “Distant Melody” in Act Two. The two ballads back-to-back would present a distinctive contrast. “Distant Melody” fills the scene with nostalgia for one of Peter’s actual infant experiences; “When I Went Home,” builds on that by providing an experience of an older (but not ‘Old”) Peter impacted by the consequences of his desertion.
  2. In the penultimate point of Act Two as a poignant “11 o’clock” number (i.e. the second to last song of the musical).  This would become a newly-created scene in which, after Wendy, her brothers and the Lost Boys have returned to the Darling’s home for good (but before we return to the Darling’s home / the final scene) we find Peter alone with Tinker Bell in Never Land filled with anger and disappointment, he sings “When I Went Home” to Tinker Bell, after which, she surrounds him with her light to comfort him.  Then the story picks up in the closing joyful scene in Mr. and Mrs. Darling welcome home their children and adopt the Lost Boys.  Of course, we would still have the Epilogue in which Peter returns to find Wendy grown-up and whisks her daughter, Jane, away to Never Land.  

Any thoughts? 

NOTE: I have a secret vocation of wanting to be a “Play Doctor” (i.e. one who alters texts, dialogue, song lyrics in a play to improve it).  I have enjoyed tinkering with a song that was dropped from the 1954 musical PETER PAN.  If you would like to see how and why I changed the original lyric and where I would place the song back into the show, see my latest blog. 

[1] “For sure!” is phrase Peter repeats throughout the play’s dialogue.

[2]  The original melody ascends here on “wide” to a “C” then “B flat” on “for me” (if in the same key as the instrumental).  Fraser, however, lowers the note on “wide” to a “A” then “G.”  I think his using descending notes is more appropriate as it anticipates Peter’s ultimate disappointment.

[3] The instrumental version lowers the note for “light” an octave.  I think that is preferable for the same reason noted above.

[4] Mr. Fraser departed from the original melody line here. Instead, he substituted a measure of lower notes to anticipate the bridge; therefore, I would suggest this lyric: “But that was not what happened.”  This line may be spoken instead of sung.

[5] Peter always flies to windows first.  By going to the door after trying the window, he would reveal his desperation. Thus, I reversed the order of the original lyric.

[6] Peter ran away from home.

[7] Fraser’s instrumental repeats the final line “When I went Home,” thus the additional phrase “That lonely night” and the repeat of “When I went home.”

The Times Are A’Changing –BECAUSE THEY MUST!

Today I invite us to consider the number “40” as part of our hope not only to recover from the pandemic but for substantial change in our world, especially to let economics SERVE THE PEOPLE, not the people serve economics . It’s time.

We have approached or are approaching (depending where you live) the 40th day of Quarantine. 40 is a number worth contemplating. What follows is a portion of a Reflection sent to me by Goddaughter Veronica DeFeo:

A group of theologians thinks the number 40 represents “change”. It is the time of preparing a person, or people, to make a fundamental change. Whenever the number 40 appears in the Bible, there is a “change”.

The flood lasted 40 days.40 years Moses fled Egypt.40 days Moses stayed on Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments.Exodus lasted 40 years.Jesus fasted for 40 days.

40 days for a woman to rest after giving birth.Optimum number of weeks for human gestation is 40.

The Latin root of the word “quarantine” is “forty”. Please know that during this “quarantine” rivers are cleaning up, vegetation is growing, the air is becoming cleaner because of less pollution, there is less theft and murder, healing is happening, and most importantly, people are turning to Christ. The Earth is at rest for the first time in many years and hearts are truly transforming.

Remember we are in the year 2020, and 20 + 20 = 40. Also, 2020 is the year of the United States Census. Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, was born during a census.

Lastly, 2020 is perfect vision. May our sight focus on the Lord and living according to His perfect vision for us knowing He holds us in the palm of His hand.May these days of “quarantine” bring spiritual liberation to our souls, our nation and our world.

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Time to Ask the Hard Questions

These days invite time for moral inventories and reflections, especially in our relationship to Nature. May we repeatedly ask ourselves these questions in perpetuity

1. For every decision I make, my family and co-workers make, my local, state and national governments make, ask will these decisions ensure clean air and clean water in my community and beyond?

2. Will this technology/ this invention / this policy offer healthy, sustainable environments for humans, animals and plant life?

3. How may we improve recycling in our area and in our nation?

4. What purchases can I make that support our communion with nature?

5. How may this choice eliminate or reduce my and my families’, my community’s garbage?

6. How may I support re-structuring and re-training our community’s workforce in ways that care for earth, air and water and animals and limit the negative effects of fire and carbon emissions?

7 May I reduce my consumption of meat and meat products to two times a week and eat more plant-based proteins like lentils and nuts?

FEEL FREE TO ADD MORE TO MY LIST!

Homily for The Presentation of the Lord Sunday February 2, 2020

There are times when we all become consumed with longing–desires for an end to all the divisiveness in our nation. For all the problems in our weary world, we insist on visions of peace, we surrender to HOPE that reconciliation-true reconciliation between hostile peoples (yes, even in our families) will become realities; that all people will be free to know and Love God and their neighbor as themselves.  

This is the longing, the hope, the faith of Simeon and Anna, the elder wisdom figures in the temple to which Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus for his Presentation and Dedication to God.  They grounded their lives on this longing, allowing their minds to keep focused on the blessings they experienced as part of a greater promise for all people.

We, too, our sorrows and disappointments notwithstanding, yes, even during these cynical times, must follow their example.  We must not capitulate to the angers of the day. 

This is especially important for those of us in our senior years because as we get older it gets easier and easier to hold on to memories of the negative events, the worst events of our lives.  Far more readily do bad memories enter our consciousness than those that savor the good times.  Today, on the Presentation of the Lord, we must reclaim the faith into which WE have been baptized.  We were baptized into the promises of Christ that all life is blessed.  God has brought us to this day for God’s good purposes.  Yes, we’ve had bad times, sorrowful times, but also times of blessing–experiences of true love for us and with others.  We must have faith that we will have these again.  

In this the early decades of the 21st century, Simeon and Anna must become our Patron Saints. They had difficult lives, lived to an old age, but they held on to hope.

Hope is what Simeon and Anna saw in the child Jesus –hope that God’s Will would, in God’s good time, become the lived reality of the nations.  Of course, their life experiences, like ours, brought them realistic expectations.  Simeon acknowledges that often enough the true longings of human hearts encounters opposition–“contradicted.”  Many people try the thwart the true, the good, the beautiful, often, but not always, because of their own sorrows and sufferings.

Simeon says this to Mary for the benefit of all.  He acknowledges the reality of evil while naming its antidote: live with humility and honesty so that “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” This means that identification with the sorrows of others will liberate evil from the world.  As we name a comprehensive TRUTH–the good and the bad from all sectors of God’s peoples–all perspectives—Grace will inspire us to take the next steps, the right steps forward.

 Saint Paul described this in his letter to the Corinthians: love entails that people will “not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoice only in the truth.’’ In John’s Gospel Jesus insists “The Truth Will Set You Free.”  As we come to the Eucharist today may we ask the Lord to strengthen us in the PROMISES OF CHRIST and truly believe and live confident that hope is eternal, and that hope is NOW for “THE KINGDOM IS AT HAND.”

Pity The Nation — # 1 and # 2 A Wake Up Call to America

PITY THE NATION – Kahil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran > Quotes > Quotable Quote

Kahlil Gibran
Kahil Gibran

“Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave
and eats a bread it does not harvest.

Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
yet submits in its awakening.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
and farewells him with hooting,
only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.”  
― Kahlil Gibran, The Garden of The Prophet

PITY THE NATION – Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American Poet Laureate (After Khalil Gibran)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, left, at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop in Harvard Square, 1965, with Bookstore Owner Gordon Cairnie . Photo from http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Lawrence_Ferlinghetti

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
   And whose shepherds mislead them
 Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
            Whose sages are silenced
  And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
 Pity the nation that raises not its voice
          Except to praise conquerers
       And acclaim the bully as hero
          And aims to rule the world
              With force and by torture
          Pity the nation that knows
        No other language but its own
      And no other culture but its own
 Pity the nation whose breath is money
 And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
      Pity the nation oh pity the people
        who allow their rights to  erode
   and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
                   Sweet land of liberty


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American Poet

Lawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti is an American poet, painter, social activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is the author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration. Ferlinghetti is best known for his first collection of poems

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Lawrence_Ferlinghetti

There is, of course, a SOLUTION, an ANTIDOTE to this realization: Christians may find it in the Gospel, Jews in the Books of the Prophets. Here’s my homily for Sunday, 2 February 2020:

The Presentation of the Lord Sunday 2 February 2020

There are times when we all become consumed with longing–desires for an end to all the divisiveness in our nation. For all the problems in our weary world, we insist on visions of peace, we surrender to HOPE that reconciliation-true reconciliation between hostile peoples (yes, even in our families) will become realities; that all people will be free to know and Love God and their neighbor as themselves.  

This is the longing, the hope, the faith of Simeon and Anna, the elder wisdom figures in the temple to which Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus for his Presentation and Dedication to God.  They grounded their lives on this longing, allowing their minds to keep focused on the blessings they experienced as part of a greater promise for all people.

We, too, our sorrows and disappointments notwithstanding, yes, even during these cynical times, must follow their example.  We must not capitulate to the angers of the day. 

This is especially important for those of us in our senior years because as we get older it gets easier and easier to hold on to memories of the negative events, the worst events of our lives.  Far more readily do bad memories enter our consciousness than those that savor the good times.  Today, on the Presentation of the Lord, we must reclaim the faith into which WE have been baptized.  We were baptized into the promises of Christ that all life is blessed.  God has brought us to this day for God’s good purposes.  Yes, we’ve had bad times, sorrowful times, but also times of blessing–experiences of true love for us and with others.  We must have faith that we will have these again.  

In this the early decades of the 21st century, Simeon and Anna must become our Patron Saints. They had difficult lives, lived to an old age, but they held on to hope.

Hope is what Simeon and Anna saw in the child Jesus –hope that God’s Will would, in God’s good time, become the lived reality of the nations.  Of course, their life experiences, like ours, brought them realistic expectations.  Simeon acknowledges that often enough the true longings of human hearts encounters opposition–“contradicted.”  Many people try the thwart the true, the good, the beautiful, often, but not always, because of their own sorrows and sufferings.

Simeon says this to Mary for the benefit of all.  He acknowledges the reality of evil while naming its antidote: live with humility and honesty so that “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” This means that identification with the sorrows of others will liberate evil from the world.  As we name a comprehensive TRUTH–the good and the bad from all sectors of God’s peoples–all perspectives—Grace will inspire us to take the next steps, the right steps forward.

 Saint Paul described this in his letter to the Corinthians: love entails that people will “not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoice only in the truth.’’ In John’s Gospel Jesus insists “The Truth Will Set You Free.”  As we come to the Eucharist today may we ask the Lord to strengthen us in the PROMISES OF CHRIST and truly believe and live confident that hope is eternal, and that hope is NOW for “THE KINGDOM IS AT HAND.”

Annual Paulist Fathers Appeal

Today the Catholic Church commemorates the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle – patron of the Paulist Fathers. I’ve been invited to preach the Annual Paulist Appeal that supports our lives and ministries here at our church in New York. I will be at two masses this weekend. Tonight at 5:15 and tomorrow Sunday at 8 AM. Other Paulists will be presiding and preaching at other masses. For those who follow me, I wanted to share my best effort. here it is:

Paulist Appeal 2020 by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.
Most of you know that Saint Paul the Apostle parish is ministered by the Paulist Fathers, the first order of Catholic priests founded in the United States in 1858. Five priests–Isaac Hecker and four others –all converts to Catholicism—insisted we enhance the American Spirit with Catholic sensibilities. Paulists, then and now, strive to keep Catholics sustained in faith, hope and love amidst the strengths of American liberty and diversity and the reality of all human weaknesses.

I am here today for the Annual Paulist Appeal. Once again, asking for your financial support to maintain our lives and collaboration with you, the Catholic faithful. We are grateful to be blessed that so many of you work with us in our service to the Church and society. We hope and pray you do, indeed, appreciate our efforts and are willing and able to offer ongoing financial support.

What do Paulists offer this parish and other parishes, campus ministries and national offices in 15 cities throughout the country? Paulists value practical, relevant preaching. We apply the Gospel to everyday life. We honor dialogue. We listen. We appreciate where people are at.

Established in full devotion to the Holy Spirit, Paulists insist we recognize the good and beautiful in all people. By extension, we affirm the good in all faiths and cultures to lay the groundwork for the loving challenges Faith and true collaboration provide–challenges to ourselves and others to grow deeper in hope, cultivating virtue for our good and the good of our country and our world. As Jesus insisted: “lay a foundation on rock, so when the storms come, our spiritual homes will not be shaken.”

Our Catholic sensibilities reveal compassion as Christ’s foundation. The biblical evidence is abundant: Jesus had insight to the deepest longings in the human heart. Jesus looked upon the crowds with pity. Jesus fed the crowds, inspired the destitute, healed the sick, forgave the hate thrusted upon him on the Cross; offered Peace to those who abandoned Him. As Jesus was moved to compassion for Jew and Gentile alike, so must we be. Paulists model Jesus’ commitment to compassion by dedicating ourselves to the ministry of welcoming and reconciliation. Paulist are healers, offering reconciliation in and outside of the confessional. “Come as you are, for all are welcome.” This is the foundation of Paulist service, so essential in these times when our country and our world have become increasingly factious and divisive.

Paulists have much in common but our devotion to the Holy Spirit insists we attend to the unique individual gifts in each of us. We hope you experience us honoring the uniqueness within each of you. My ministry, for example, is considered unique. I am one of 7 Paulists missionaries to the U.S. — 7 out of the 114 Paulist Fathers worldwide. We visit Catholic parishes a week at a time, preaching at all weekend masses and offering weekday Mass and presentations morning and evenings for spiritual enrichment. My ministry is called Luke Live! – a semi-dramatic recitation of Luke’s Gospel in 4 specific missions that include preaching and Song Meditations (sacred and secular) to keep the Gospel in dialogue with our lives, our culture and contemporary issues.

This Paulist appeal supports three of our National Offices in need of your funding: the uniqueness of Busted Halo –a ministry to young adults (college and post-college) who may or may not be participating in Church life. It’s outreach that assures the new adult generation that the Church is here for them, welcoming and open to dialogue. Furthermore, YOU were the ones who inspired this outreach as so many of you came to us saying, “Help us get our college and post-college kids back to Church!”

Busted Halo has two platforms: a website BustedHalo.com with articles, videos and podcasts (and a talented lay staff of 4 extraordinary talented young adult women plus host of freelance writers) and a 2 hour weeknight program Monday through Friday on Sirius Radio’s Catholic Channel, produced and hosted by Fr. Dave Dwyer, who often presides and preaches here.

Your contributions will also support Openings, our NYC outreach to artists of all faiths, offering support and dialogue focused on the spiritual underpinnings of art and creativity, shepherded by Paulist Frank Sabatté, an artist himself. See his embroideries of Isaac Hecker, Saint Bernadette on back walls before you go. The third ministry is called LANDINGS International–-designed to train and support lay parishioners to welcome “on the fence Catholics” who need friendship and support as they consider returning to the sacramental life in the Church. Their numbers are legion.

We also need your support in more practical matters, the care of seniors– a growing group of almost 50 men aged 72 to 97 in need of room and board, medical care, fraternal and spiritual enrichment. I am pleased to report that many if not most are still at work, at least part time offering sacraments, missions, classes, support groups, and, of course, ongoing prayer for you and the Church as a whole. The average cost of care for each Senior Paulist Father is $53,000 per year. Perhaps your income enables you to support one of them this year. Whatever you can give, I know that you would want to thank them for over 50 years of service each.

This appeal also helps us educate and train our 10 Paulist students to assure our Paulist charism continues. Each student requires 4 to 5 full years of tuition at Catholic University plus a year of prayer, discernment, and some ministry in the DC area called “Novitiate Year.” In addition, we require students to have a year of pastoral experience before his ordination, to assure us that each has the opened mind and heart and welcoming spirit of the Paulist Fathers. The average cost of each Seminarian is $70,000 per year. All of this completely is subsidized by your support.

Your gift also subsidizes our Vocation Office. Our Director, Fr. Dat Tran, visits parishes and campus ministries throughout the USA to invite men to consider Paulist priesthood; he also offers several annual retreats with that resolve. We know you want more priests with the Paulist Spirit for not only this but future generations. Only you can make all this happen with your willingness to collaborate, to grow in faith with us, and your financial support.

Remember the Paulists, like all Religious Orders, were created and are sustained with the kindness and collaboration of the people. We hope you have come to believe in us as we believe in you –true and faithful servants of the Gospel. Paulist Appeal Envelopes have been mailed to all registered parishioners and for the rest, with faith and trust, we have placed more envelopes in the pews. You may contribute what you can today or better, take the envelope home for further prayer and discernment. If you choose to give today, please write your name and address on the outer envelope (pens are in the pews), so we thank you and you’ll have a record of your donation. You may consult our website http://www.paulist.org/ for more examples of our lives and make a monthly pledge on line to sustain us through the year. No contribution is too big or small.

Wherever you are on your faith journey, I hope you experience Paulist leadership as welcoming and accepting. We have entrusted our lives to the Eucharistic, all the sacraments and the best of the American spirit: “for the people” by the people, and with the people;” or, to us Church language: “Together in mission.” Isn’t this the kind of Priesthood you want to support? Please don’t give up on us! Thank you, thank you, with all our hearts. God bless you!

See Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/paulists/ and also http://www.paulist.org

Fr. Richard Rohr on Scripture — Indispensable!

Practice: Midrash

The best way in which a Christian can interpret Scripture is to do so as Jesus did! It almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Yet, ironically, this has not been the norm for most of Christianity. So, what does it mean to read the Bible as Jesus did?

Jesus approached the Hebrew Scriptures with the assumption that God had been dialoging with humanity since the beginning. He used the Jewish practice of midrash as a way of participating in this dialogue. Midrash is a method of interpreting Scripture that fills in the gaps, by questioning and imagining a multitude of possible interpretations. Midrash allows the text and the Spirit of God to open up the reader to transformation, instead of resisting change by latching onto one final, closed, and certain interpretation. This open-horizon approach was common for most of the first 1300 years of Christianity, where as many as six levels of interpretation and numerous levels of truth were perceived in any one Scripture text.

The traditional forms of midrash demand both a prayerful approach and scholarly familiarity with the Bible and commentaries which have formed the tradition over the centuries. However, it is possible for someone who is not a biblical scholar or theologian to get a sense of the practice of midrash.

The following practice, drawn from Teresa Blythe’s book 50 Ways to Pray, offers an interactive experience with the Bible through openness, contemplative attitude, and critical thinking.This practice invites us to trust that God will meet us where we are and will take us where we need to go as we consider the meaning of the text. We could engage in this dialogue often, even with the same text, since there will always be more discoveries about the meaning(s) of sacred texts.

Dialoguing with Scripture:

Choose one of the following Scriptures for reflection:

  • Exodus 1:8-22 — The Hebrew midwives fear God
  • Exodus 18:13-27 — Jethro’s advice to Moses
  • 1 Samuel 3 — The call of Samuel
  • Mark 9:14-29 — Jesus heals the afflicted boy
  • Luke 8:22-25 — Jesus calms a storm
  • Luke 10:29-37 — The good Samaritan

Read (or listen to) your selected Scripture passage slowly. You may want to read (or hear) it more than once.

Consider which character in the story you would like to interact with. It could be a person you find agreeable, or a person with whom you want to question or debate. Who are you drawn to? When you decide on a character, write the name at the top [of a piece of] paper.

Hold an imaginary conversation—on paper—with the character in the story. You may want to stick with the theme of the Scripture and talk about that, or you may want to discuss other topics. It is completely up to you. Let your imagination roll free and see what transpires. (20 minutes)

When you are finished, read your dialogue out loud.

What is it like to have a conversation with a biblical figure? Why did you choose the character you chose? Did anything in the conversation surprise you? Did anything in the conversation move you? Did you feel any inner blocks to doing this sort of exercise? Did you feel the presence and guidance of God in the dialogue? What did you learn about yourself as you engaged this biblical figure? How easy or difficult is it for you to have these kinds of imaginary conversations? How useful would you say such conversations are for you?

End your reflection time with a prayer of gratitude for what you experienced.

Tip—You don’t have to be an excellent writer to enjoy this exercise. No one but you has to read what you’ve written. Just write from the heart and imagination. [1]

[1] Teresa A. Blythe, 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times (Abingdon Press: 2006), 17-18.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Hierarchy of Truths: Jesus’ Use of Scripture (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CDMP3 download.

Image credit: Palm Sunday (detail), Sinkiang, 683-770 CE, Nestorian Temple, Qocho (Xinjiang), China.

For Further Study:

“The Future of Christianity,” Oneing, vol. 7, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2019)

Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, Alexie Torres-Fleming, Shane Claiborne, Emerging Church: Christians Creating a New World Together (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), MP3 download

Sebastian Moore, The Contagion of Jesus: Doing Theology as If It Mattered (Orbis Books: 2008)

Richard Rohr, What Is the Emerging Church? (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), MP3 downloadCD

C. S. Song, Jesus, the Crucified People (Fortress Press: 1996)

Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why (Baker Books: 2008)

Freedom of the Children of God – the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Writer Bianca Vivion Brooks posted an Op-Ed in the NYTIMES on Friday.  Titled I USED TO FEAR BEING A NOBODY, THEN I LEFT SOCIAL MEDIA.  In it, she shared how her identity and wellbeing were tied up in the world wide web.  She wrote:

 “For years I poured my opinions, musings and outrage onto my timeline, believing I held an indispensable place in a vital sociopolitical experiment.

But these passionate, public observations were born of more than just a desire to speak my mind — I was measuring my individual worth in constant visibility.

 “After all, a private life boasts no location markers or story updates. The idea that the happenings of our lives would be constrained to our immediate families, friends and real-life communities is akin to social death in a world measured by followers, views, likes and shares.

“I grow weary when I think of this as the new normal for what is considered to be a fruitful personal life. Social media is no longer a mere public extension of our private socialization; it has become a replacement for it. What happens to our humanity when we relegate our real lives to props for the performance of our virtual ones?”


Ms. Brooks was right.  That is the message we get from our culture because culture often addressed our most basic human instincts: it is so very human to crave affirmation from strangers, to desire blessed assurances of our worth.  Everyone wants to feel valued by others beyond our immediate circle of family and friends, certainly everyone needs to feel that we certainly are more valuable than our bank accounts. Still, to live with constant expectation that somehow, somewhere we will be acknowledged, that we will be awarded, we will achieve recognition—these are the burdens society thrusts upon us.  We must remember these do not comprise the yoke of Christ, the blessed burdens of Christianity.

Sure, it is disappointing to write a book that nobody reads or organize community outreach on important issues –spiritual or social– and nobody shows up.  But that’s not the same things as centering our lives on social acceptance, praise and success. 

Jesus walked the way of the humble, rejected by his hometown natives, he made the Lord God his foundation–nurturing disciples to be sure–but not dependent on their adulation or even their solidarity,  Indeed, they often misunderstood him, they could not comprehend all that he taught. nor did they exquisitely follow his example.  What kept him going?  His honesty, his willingness to sigh, trusting  that all will come to pass in God’s time. Jesus was content to plant seeds, finding comfort in life’s basic pleasures while offering hope, insisting on a better future but not manipulating people into it.  Critical of all established institutions –He called the tetrarch Herod “that fox” and many religious leaders “you hypocrites!” –all the while witnessing to the Great Commandments and not despairing when his followers didn’t or couldn’t live up to them.  

When disappointments plague us, we may recall the prophet Habakkuk as Jesus must have recalled him:

For the vision still has its time,
 presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
 if it delays, wait for it,
 it will surely come, it will not be late.
 The rash one has no integrity;
 but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Meanwhile, Jesus was content to praise God for life’s little pleasures, close friends and family, however imperfect, yet still sharing meals with disciples and strangers alike, engaging with people of wealth and of little or no means, always seeing the inner soul of whoever sat beside him; observing nature’s beauty and challenges –the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, pastures of sheep and farms cultivating wheat, and, like Abraham before him, the stars of the skies, the sands on the shores of the ocean.  

Simplicity doesn’t mean not to try writing the great American novel — if that is your ambition.  It doesn’t mean not bringing your ideas to your boss or high school principal or your local Congress person.  In fact, we are obliged to live, to be engaged, to share insights and experiences with those who make decisions for us and for others.  And, should we be the ones who are making the decisions, it is vitally important that after expressing our ideas, our preferences, we listen to others who think differently, live differently without needing their adulation –or even their votes! 

In all this, Jesus insists we keep the bigger picture whether we are heard or not, our ideas are accepted or not, whether our dignity is acknowledged or not.  Truth, Goodness, Justice, Mercy are not rooted in imperfect society, or culture of meritocracy but in Faith, Hope and Love.  There is no better foundation, no great truth.  

Emily Dickenson grounded herself in spiritual realities and knew the distinction between integrity and popularity when she wrote: 

I’m Nobody!  Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us?

Don’t tell!  they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

But today is SUNDAY and we must let Jesus have the last words: Are we feeling dejected, bereft of camaraderie, devoid of success and affirmation?  Recall Jesus speaking from his own experience:  “No prophet is ever accepted in his own native place. ” And, like Jesus, we must move on.   Yes, we can dream, yes, we still can share. We can give and forgive.  We must do all these things FREED from our drives for self-importance so we may give thanks to God and say: ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”