Homily for Sunday 19 January 2020 -KEEP MINDFUL OF “WHY” JESUS

Must it take me an entire day to consult commentaries and write a homily for Sunday? One would think after almost 27 years of priesthood an hour or two would be all that I would need! Nevertheless, I’m dependent on the Holy Spirit as the Spirit will utilize me and so I surrender and God keeps me humble. Here’s what I came up with:

Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary TimeFr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.
Every family seems to comprise an individual or two who love to brag about certain relations, be they sons or daughters, nieces or nephews. Oddly, they rarely praise the individual in person, only to other relatives. They weary us with the list of this one or that one’s virtues and accomplishments and we wonder, “how could anyone be so wonderful?” We begin to look at the objects of these effusive accolades with suspicion, discomfort at best, resentment at worst. The result: now there are two people we try to avoid: Uncle Charlie, Aunt Petunia AND poor cousin Mickey.


Who are these patriarchs, matriarchs trying to impress? Don’t they know goodness doesn’t lie in any individual alone, but that all is grace, and all good abilities and accomplishments are God’s gifts? No one is greater in God’s eyes, all belong, all are invited to salvation in which all good works are providential for God’s purposes, far greater than our own satisfaction or advancement.


That’s what makes John the Baptist’s words about Jesus so different. This isn’t bragging. This is acknowledging God is with us, God’s plan for humanity is in evidence. Prior to this moment, John simply knew Jesus as his cousin. Yes, he had heard of the prophecies, no doubt, but Remember there were many different interpretations of who and what MESSIAH would be. “I did not know him” refers not to John’s human knowledge but rather recognition and understanding of Jesus’ true role of redemption, Jesus’ salvific purpose. As John sees the Dove, the Spirit descend upon Jesus, he is inspired to see Jesus as God reveals Him, as God intended John and all of us to see.


As we return to the Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time,” we do well to see what John saw, to recognize the true Jesus, His true purpose; how the confirmation of eternal life in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection saves us from harming ourselves and others.
Christmas Season may be over, and Lent and Easter are not quite near, but in our everyday life we must carry the images of Christmas and Holy Week forever in our hearts. We must not ever stop being nurtured by the scene of Infant Jesus in the manger, surrounded by humble parents, poor shepherd and lowly animals. The symbols of the Nativity, the Crèche scene, must forever compel us not only to be in awe of Jesus, the Incarnation but suffer us to be in awe of every infant, every child, regardless of his or her social status or inheritance. Let the manger maintain in us reverence for all life, be it animal, vegetable or mineral, for all witness to God’s immeasurable Wisdom that divined the interconnectedness of all people and all things.


Of course, it’s easy to love every infant –well, for most people, it is. We do have a number of curmudgeons among us who value peace and contemplative silence above all things at home, at church, at supermarkets and elsewhere, forgetting that they once, too, screamed during the offertory, mother’s favorite tv program or giggled at the teacher trying so hard to achieve some sense of decorum. Still, our love and gratitude for children, must easily be extended to the beauty of the earth, the majesty of the animals domestic and wild, the necessity of trees—their gift of oxygen, the waterways—especially fresh water to drink, the honeybees pollinating the fruits we eat and everything else that contributes to our being. After all, all played their part in bringing humanity into being, furnishing the elements on their way to their consummation and fulfilment in Christ Jesus, the WORD INCARNATED that initiated creation and continues to sustain it and all of us unto eternity.
Gratitude for Jesus is Gratitude for all, and thankfulness is the best way to get through this day and any day. Yet, life also is suffering and that’s why we must keep the Cross and Easter balanced with our Christmas inspirations.


Seeing Jesus on the Cross we must not only be reminded that He died for us, be convinced of His love for us, but to see how we individually and collectively as a society perpetuate suffering – suffering of the innocent as He was—and by extension, the weak, the lonely and vulnerable (there’s that baby in a manger again) but all suffering– be it among the good or the wicked, for as Jesus said in Luke’s Gospel, “God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked,” never causing evil but alleviating it for all who turn to him and cooperate with His grace. Yes, the crucifix does expose the sins of the world but remember, exposed in order to forgive them –mercy being the only antidote to sin, the only way life is rejuvenated, resurrected, redeemed, the only way earthly life continues toward eternal life. As we explored last week, Jesus insisted John baptize him, saying, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” —revealing righteousness as the Mercy of God toward all, not just an elect few.


Do we recognize all this in Jesus as John the Baptist did on that holy day? Do we intend through meditation and prayer and thanksgiving and participation in the Sacraments to see every day as holy, every person, every aspect of God’s good earth holy and precious and important? When we do, we join with John the Baptist in recognizing Christ With US and witnessing to the truth that Jesus as the Son of God makes a difference for us in how we think, how we see, how we live, what we eat and how we eat it on a daily basis, not just particular times of the year. We need to see more than bread and wine when we come to the table this morning. That’s for sure! Welcome back to “Ordinary Time.”

Movie Review: Little Women, a film by Greta Gerwig

Men must see the film LITTLE WOMEN currently in theatres (Opened Christmas Day).

 I just got back from seeing LITTLE WOMEN for the second time and, once again, I was so captivated by the performances and the beauty of the film. I enjoyed it even more the second time. It is a timeless story about family, togetherness, hope and ambition and mostly about love in all its many forms. Though I am blessed and content as a celibate priest there were moments in the film that I simply melted witnessing how feminine energy can captivate a person and how easy it would be to fall in love with any of the March women. There are a couple moments in the film where you see the male characters standing at attention in awe of the interaction of mother and daughters. The moments are priceless and I daresay must prove indicative of most people’s reaction to the movie.

A note to married men and those seeking marriage: You will appreciate your wife and woman friend all the more after seeing this movie: The Wonder of the Feminine” is in full display here –its strengths, its solidarity, its honesty about the friendship and competition among sisters–not so unlike that of brothers (Surprise!) and their love for men in the special sense of all humankind but also their appreciation and respect for the marked differences between us.


This new film written and directed by Greta Gerwig also highlights the way echoes of the 19th Century limitations upon women continually need to be addressed for men and women in society today for we are not yet true partners at home, at work nor in our collective mission to make this a better world, lovingly, respectfully and with integrity. There’s also some important social commentary about the proper and improper use of wealth but I’ll let Meryl Streep’s characterization of Aunt March spell that out for you. (Streep is amazing as always in a significantly minor role.)

All performances are luminous and completely “right,” but three stand out for me:  Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Florence Pugh as Amy and Laura Dern as “Marmee” (“mother”).   Timothée Chalamet as Laurie, (“the boy next store” and devoted friend) is also excellent, especially in the scene he confesses undying love to Jo.  Gerwig’s script gives them great opportunities to be “REAL” and the way the script and editing move back and from within a seven-year time period adds layers of perspective that adds to the insights this family drama offers.  Cinematography, Set Design and Costumes are A+. A fine score, too, by Alexander Desplat.


GO SEE THIS MOVIE with as many men and women and young people as you can. I’d say age 10 and up. And then read the book and DISCUSS it with women and men, boys and girls because it is not only about girlhood, womanhood but about life and death, love and ambition, inner and outer conflicts, timidity and boldness–i.e. it’s for everyone. I believe it needs to be back on the school’s reading lists, too. When I was a student teacher long ago, I put it on my reading list for high school freshmen but didn’t get the chance to teach it. Perhaps it would have become a deterrent to my vocation. Evidently God had other plans for me, but I shall continue to appreciate and enjoy the story and the women in my life always and always.

Homily for The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 12 January 2020

Here’s the Scripture Readings:

Reading 1 IS 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smouldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

R/ (11b)  The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R/ The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R/ The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R/ The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Reading 2 ACTS 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

Alleluia  MK 9:7

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened, and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son, listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   MT 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan
to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you,
and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfil all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

We’re leaving a Season of Symbols – Evergreens representing God’s eternal, undying love will be grounded into mulch or used to stabilize sand dunes in beach communities; twinkling lights that witness to Christ as the light of the world withdrawn to attics and corner closets; candles, the burning fire of the Holy Spirit– snuffed out. Poinsettias–plants with striking red leaves branching out in star-like fashion akin to the Star of Bethlehem—perhaps lingering longer in homes and churches than the other signs, might provide us with a remnant of  Christmas Spirit to carry us through the mischief of March and the coming of Lent.  Oh, Lent!  Those perennial forty days that annually insist we repent for not keeping Jesus close, not letting Jesus guide us in all aspects of our lives, asking, “Why is your manger vacant?”

Yes, the Christmas Season concludes this weekend, but not without offering one more Christian symbol, this one perpetual and unchanging: Baptismal water. The Baptism of the Lord is the fourth and final of the “First, Initial Epiphanies” of Jesus’ manifestation to the world.  First: His birth set before lowly shepherds and innocent of animals. Second:  his presentation in the temple to people of faith—Simeon and Anna who lived, longed for rejuvenation, “new hope” in “God. The third Epiphany: Magi, models of the world’s Wisdom figures seeking eternal truths worshiping Jesus. The Magi—representatives of all discontented Gentiles drawn to Judaism’s God—THE GOD who created the cosmos not through the riotous and ravenous warfare as in most pagan world’s religion or atheism’s accusations through some cruel and indifferent power, but out of infinite, all-consuming love.  The fourth “First” is Jesus’ Baptism through which the Christ inaugurated his public ministry.   

That Jesus submitted to Baptism is but an extension of his submission to human nature.  So deeply united to humankind, Jesus identifies fully even with human sin, though He Himself was completely innocent and without sin.  Through Baptism, Jesus attested to the power sin holds over humanity while offering a way out–a remedy to sin’s oppression. And what are these “sins,” rooted in the primordial evil pulling humankind away from God?  Nothing more or less than the world’s compulsion to advance at the expense of others; arrogance and pride that denigrates the weak and the lowly; hate and prejudice leading to violence and murder, sacrificing others—often innocent others—to manifest human will against God’s will.  Jesus enters the waters to show that  in the words of the prophet Hosea, “God desires mercy, not sacrifice,”  i.e., mercy toward the guilty and innocent alike for only mercy, only compassion will establish the reign of Peace that is God’s justice, not human justice. Remember when all humanity’s sins were exposed on the Cross, Jesus offered mercy.

Through Baptism Jesus offered the fullness of God’s mercy to the nations. As the prophet Isaiah foretold, Jesus is “the Chosen One,” in complete possession of God’s spirt – a spirit that does not demean or diminish anyone.  That is the meaning of Isaiah’s words “a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smouldering wick he shall not quench”  In modern parlance, Jesus would never kick a dog when its down, or prey upon the weak to make Himself powerful or give himself advantage.  Through Baptism He invites us to trust in compassion as God’s reality–THE Christian reality– and to participate in it.  It’s time we face it: most of the worlds’ history is a story of the powerful sacrificing the weak – be they children or women or people with darker skins or people who don’t fit any consensus of attractiveness or conventional wisdom.  It’s time we repent.  We must re-appropriate our Baptismal charism and start over.  This is the great challenge of the 21st century.  It’s now or never.    

And it is our Baptism that give us hope, assuring us God’s mercy is forever.  Baptism invites us to be courageous and humble.  Let God’s will, not our will, win out–not populism, nationalism, racism, ethnocentrism, antisemitism or any other “ism.”  God puts people first. God puts Mercy first. It’s time we are shocked into Baptism’s deeper reality and submit to it.  This is how the fullness of the Christmas Story will brace us to face the new year. 

Whether it’s the teacher unkind or cruel to a student, a manager demeaning his crew, a spouse impatient and unfeeling, a politician snidely dismissing one ethnic group or another, world leaders out for themselves and their constituencies with no consideration for their neighbours, businesses with no concerns for their impact on local communities, Church leaders who protect themselves against the innocent and  the poor–ONLY REPENTANCE AND SURRENDER T0 GOD’S MERCY WILL TRANSFORM MINDS, HEARTS, NEIGHBOURHOODS AND NATIONS.

Follow Jesus through the water of life again and again, a life force perpetuated for us through frequent Eucharist and, when needed, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, offer us the grace to let go of our resentments, humble ourselves to offer mutual repentance for society’s sins and invite reciprocal learning and shared responsibility.  Of course, we must hold people accountable for their sins yet not without supporting them in mending their ways, helping them accept the consequences of their actions, remedying the situations together without blame, malice or rancour. Why?  Because no wrongdoing emerges from a vacuum but rather erupts from a convergence of many personalities and many situations left un-mended, unattended to or outright ignored.  That is why we needed a Saviour and still need one.

The more we participate in mercy –putting ourselves in the place of others, walking in their shoes, patiently working towards understanding and exploring choices of genuine mutual benefit and sacrifice (for all live by God’s mercy)—the more true Christianity becomes a viable way of life for the world’s consideration.  

The Gospel insists that Jesus fulfilled this righteousness (right way to live/ God’s way to live), inaugurating it through His Baptism because only Mercy empower us to start our lives over, beyond guilt, remorse, regret, revenge to live in the present moment with hope.  Baptism and our Sacramental life provide us with the grace we need to let God’s will work through us to make a better present, a better future. Yes, the Christmas lights have dimmed, but remember Jesus has made you light for the world. Think of that each time you dip your fingers into the Holy Water fonts—for that water is the water of our Baptism, the water of fullness of life and peace and joy, the true Spirit of Christmas.

FROZEN II Review

FROZEN II

Review by Father James DiLuzio

Elsa and Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven are off on a new adventure and the Disney animators have outdone themselves in visuals. I saw Frozen II in IMAX and the vistas and panoramas of Arendelle, Forests, Glaziers and Canyons are stunning, and the characterizations, especially emotive eyes of the protagonists prove totally captivating.  The story (credited to five writers, including the sole screenwriter Jennifer Lee who is also co-director with Christ Buck, another story contributor) offer solid psychological, emotional and spiritual growth drama for Elsa and Anna. Each woman is voiced by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, respectively in top form.  This new script gives Anna a little more depth and develops Elsa more readily courageous then before. The animation matches their voice portrayals perfectly and both voice portrayals are first-rate.  In their supporting comic roles, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff returning as Olaf and Kristoff are equally enjoyable.  The script gives Olaf a dandy new twist spouting “fun-facts” and philosophical maxims.   Most are clever and amusing and worth more than a few chuckles, although a couple notes about death seem surprisingly beyond Disney’s purview. Evidently, the screenwriters overly indulged their inner adult!

Overall, FROZEN II offers a satisfying movie experience, although the songs by husband and wife team Kristen Anderson Lopez Robert Lopez (who also contributed to the story) don’t reach the heights of their work in the original FROZEN.  Perhaps they needed more fallow time before returning to these characters and situations. Elsa’s big ballads INTO THE UNKOWN and SHOW YOURSELF miss the magnetism of LET IT GO even as the orchestral arrangements build to climactic proportions. The most memorable and effective songs were the quieter ones, especially a folk-like ballad ALL IS FOUND sweetly sung by Evan Rachel Wood in a flashback voicing Queen Iduna, the princesses’ mother. (The song is repeated in the credits by Kacey Musgraves.)  Notwithstanding their appropriate character revelations and plot advancements, several songs don’t seem to flow organically from the dialogue and situations the way they do in other Anderson/Lopez scores. Olaf’s WHEN I’M OLDER and Kristoff’s LOST IN THE WOODS, fine but not remarkable as stand-alone numbers, seem to pop into the script at not quite the right moments.  This is the biggest surprise and a rare flaw in a Disney animated musical feature. The orchestrated musical score, however, by Christopher Beck is excellent.

I would recommend the film for families with kids 10 and older due to some of the darker elements in the script.  The story team has provided well-developed themes of sisterhood, friendship, maturation and best of all: the importance of discovering and confronting the ill effects of the past on both the human psyche and the natural world.  A nice surprise and an essential timely lesson for us all.

Christ Now!

Homily for Thirty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time November 2019

6 AM New York City. Wednesday November 13th. Twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill well below that found a hundred or more  young women and teens lining along Avenue of the Americas at 48th Street in Manhattan.  Back packs stuffed and overflowing; sleeping bags and suitcases at their feet, these adventurous folks were forming a queue for standby tickets for Saturday Night Live at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It was only Wednesday morning, but unreserved tickets and cancellations won’t be available until 7 AM Saturday November 16th.  The queue gets longer as the day wears on. Temperature rises to 36 degrees, but nighttime drops to 23. Thursday’s temperatures: 28 low; 45 high but nighttime drops to 37; Friday warmed up to 50 at noon; 36 at night. Saturday at 6 AM: 34.

Great Expectations. Awe inspired Anticipation. Why?  Harry Styles, British pop star will be the host.  He looks a little bit like a young, vibrant, drug-free Mick Jagger. Neither wind, nor chill, nor sleeping bags on frigid sidewalk concrete deterred the anxious throng. 

How prepared are we–how undeterred– to keep our sights on Jesus not only through the vagaries of weather, but sickness and health, good news and bad news?

A glance at the news evokes images not unlike those Jesus offers in Luke’s Gospel:  wars and insurrections, famines —starving children and families still cry out in Yemen due to Saudi Arabia and Syria’s political interventions, and the  protests in Hong Kong may have abetted a bit, but there’s no true reconciliation in sight.   And then, of course, there are our contemporary tragedies analogous to earthquakes:  Fires and school shooting in California and melting glaciers on the poles.

All these things require people of faith to center ourselves more fully in Christ.  When fundamentalist Christians challenge us by asking “Have you accepted Jesus as your Personal Lord and Savior?” it’s time we, too, shout “YES!” And , insist that we are striving to develop the relationship every day. 

Every age has its challenges and every age requires Christians to understand Jesus as Sacrament –the Sacred Manifested in the world and in us.  Our sacraments cultivate the relationship but are not ends in themselves –never were, nor were they intended to be but confirmation of a 24/7 relationship. 

Without Jesus and our attentiveness to prayer to and through Him and with and through His Very Own Communion with His Saints –expressions of Jesus Himself in different epochs, different situations—each offering some inspiration of cooperation with grace—without these, how can we possibly navigate the challenges of our times?

 False prophets are everywhere–asserting prosperity beyond our imagining, “consequence-free” gratification of all kinds or, conversely,  cataclysmic doom.  How easy it is, at times, to give into these fears or try to escape from realities and abandon Jesus because we think He asks much of us!  But what he asks of us, is what he freely gives: the grace to cultivate  honesty, truth, forbearance, hope, trust.  And more than that, He is ever ready to heal and support us when we fail.

It is time that we let Jesus be enough for us –allow Jesus to be all in all in us. Seeing Him as our friend, our patron, our mentor, linking the events of our lives with the events of His life and that of the Saints. As Saint Paul wrote “imitate me” because he imitates Christ. May the Anima Christi prayer be our mantra, today, tomorrow and all the days of our lives.  Then we have nothing to fear. Moreover, we have the courage to engage one another in making this a better world, all in Christ’s name.   And so we pray:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise thee
Forever and ever.
Amen.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.

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.'”

Re; HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM – a book by NYTIMES Staff Writer Bari Weiss

As a Catholic priest committed to fighting anti-semitism, I attended Bari Weiss’ NY Times Talk on Thursday evening, Sept. 5, promoting her book (2019, New York: Crown) which I just finished. There’s also a NYTIMES magazine piece 9/8.  I think this very short book (206 of 7” x 4 ½ “pages) is best in its definition of Anti-semitism and its overview of its history (the “HOW TO segment is shorter and addressed primarily to the Jewish community itself),  I want to share some of Bari Weiss’insights (and mine–IN PARENTHESIS) with you:

  • Judaism is not only a religion, it is an ethnicity, a people and a nation.  Not acknowledging all three opens critics to contributing to antisemitism .
  • Anti-Semitism comprises a goal of eliminating Judaism and the Jewish people.  (In that sense, I believe Christian supersessionism is Anti-Semitic)
  • Anti-Semitism includes superstitions, lies and falsehoods about Jews and Judaism’s but can include misunderstandings that are not fact checked.  There is also a strong illogic– Jews and Judaism are blamed for whatever! –with no basis on reality. E.g., ” controlling the planet, controlling banks/ Wall Street/ education / Hollywood/ government policy / responsible for the spread of communism/ engineering wars for profit.”
  • (Anti-semitism is in evidence whenever inquiry into the standard ” who, what, when, where, how?” questions go unanswered.)
  • Anti-Semitism includes Denial of, and/or refutation of, the distinct ethic, moral, faith, social and literary contributions of the Hebrew Bible and the major contribution of Jews to Western Civilization. 
  • The FAR-LEFT ideologies contribute to Anti-Semitism:
  • “The Politically Correct”  dynamic makes adherents  of left-leaning ideas disproportionately fearful of offending Islam (Islamophobia), thus they downplay the acts and rhetoric of  Radical Fundamentalist Islam ignoring its extreme hatred of Jews.
  • There is  disproportionate blame and outright scapegoating of Israel as a nation that is essentially anti-semitism.  In contrast, holding American and Israel to their highest ideals and constitutional directives is not Anti-Semitism. E.g., one may fairly state that “the current policies of the Jewish state betray Jewish (and American constitutional) values.

The FAR-RIGHT: White Supremacy ideology forms hatred of Jews because of its biblical ethics, sensitivities to immigrants, minorities; hated for its internationalist character. It is threatened by Jewish civilization

HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMTISM:

Weiss offers this:

  • Follow Abraham’s example: refuse to worship false idols (incl. lies, biased reporting) and nurture courage to keep out-of-step with the status quo;  risk acting on behalf of deeper, biblical values; don’t be afraid to stand alone, even while cultivating community within and beyond Judaism
  • Remind people that the American values of liberty, freedom of thought and worship, the notion that all people are created equal—are Jewish values coded in Genesis 1 and throughout the Hebrew Bible.  So, too, the very notions of Hope and a present that nurtures a more positive future for humanity are specific Jewish contributions to Western Civilization. 

I offer this:

  • Hold all comments made in conversation about “The Jews” (or any group) to the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How” standard
  • A foundational aspect of the Bible’s inspiration is the way the Jewish community writes of its great accomplishments and its failures, often with more accounts of the failures and the sufferings it endures.  All peoples would do well to do the same, holding accomplishments –positive contributions to wisdom, world values and cultures while remaining humble of all the failures.  I think one aspect of antisemitism is that others are not secure about their own ethnicity, heritage, strengths and failures and so let themselves become envious and resentful of the Jewish identity and its outstanding contributions.  More HUMBLE pride all around could help!

See: See:  https://www.bariweiss.com/                                           Twitter:  @bariweiss

See: https://forward.com/culture/books/431220/bari-weiss-anti-semitism-how-to-fight-review/

Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time –Invest in Faith: There’s a Great Pay-Off!

Reading 1:   Wis 9:13-18b     Responsorial Psalm   Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17  

Reading 2     Phmn 9-10, 12-17    Gospel    Lk 14:25-33

By this time in our history, what Catholic doesn’t know when Jesus states “You must hate your father, mother, wife, children, brother, sister if you are to follow me”  he used hyperbole / exaggeration to express that we must love God first above all others.  If not, we tend to love family and friends selfishly, manipulatively, with jealousy or envy or with inflated pride or too much criticism.  Following Jesus first, we see our loved ones as Jesus sees them, love them as Jesus loves them, support them as much as we can mirror Jesus’  support—i.e., loving them while insisting on the Two Great Commandments which foster honesty, humility, forgiveness, and courage to repair any damage that we’ve done.   As for “hating even our lives,” of course, we must always be GRATEFUL for our lives, for being invited to share in Jesus’ life, his mission, cultivating his perspectives in how we interact with the world.  What we need “to hate”  is our tendency to default to society’s ways of valuing us – our looks, our possessions, our neighborhoods, our needs for other’s approval.  Grateful that we may have these things but not resentful that we may not.

In the NYTIMES Sunday Arts section today, there’s an insightful interview with Linda Ronstadt, a very popular recording artist of the 1970 and 80’s , now retired and, it seems, living gracefully with Parkinson’s disease.  Regarding her unique recordings of Mexican songs when bringing Spanish into mainstream pop was extremely rare, her interviewer asked her:  ““When critics talk about the pop artists who brought music from outside the U.S. or U.K. to the pop mainstream, they mention Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, not you. Is that frustrating?  HER RESPONSE:  Who cares? My music is not curing cancer. It will be gone soon enough.

That, my friends is a shining example of being thankful for our lives and talents while being humble and keeping the big picture –whether we ever get our name in a newspaper or our YouTube posts go viral. 

Following Jesus, picking up our cross—i.e. accepting trials and conflicts and difficulties as challenges, opportunities for grace, and being “ever-ready,” “prepared,” “prudent,” eager to learn is the theme for our Eucharist today.  And, I know, how often we may not feel any of that.  Remember, each Mass is here to return us to hope, to courage—to trust in Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.  I know that not all family, friends and co-workers support us in these beliefs and endeavors.   Many chide, or ridicule us for going to Mass, or for remaining Catholic, or for believing in God.  Others are quick to lord it over us when we do something harmful or indulge our tempers or hurt ourselves or another human being. It is then that we must humbly acknowledge how dependent we are on Christ and His Story of forgiveness, for reconciliation, for courage to admit our wrongs and make amends.  Today’s Eucharist offers us that, too.  Thank God!

And yes, the Church as institution has given us plenty of reasons to judge it, to even hate it.  Yet today and everyday Jesus gives us the grace to hold it accountable with faith and hope, loving it back to its true self and reinstating it to its primordial purpose. Hey, if not  you and me, who?

So, may we not despair that only some of us among family, friends and neighbors have chosen to celebrate Jesus in us and for us today. We never know when the deposit of Grace bestowed on in any given Eucharist will bear fruit  — even when we may not be conscious of it.  I’ll close with what I hope is for you a shining example –an inspiration—as to the possibilities, the grace in store for us precisely because we’re here, cultivating our friendship with God and all that entails.

One day, a certain dad indulged his dark side in ways that were deeply demeaning to his adult daughter.  She found herself brimming with rage.  But a voice within, however, pleaded with her: “Postpone your wrath!”  “Postpone your wrath!” What Eucharist do you think that came from?  “Anyway,” she pacified herself with this thought, “I’ll plot my revenge at a later date.“

As the days went by, the incident replayed repeatedly in her mind, evoking the worst of all her childhood and adult memories.  She’d see her father’s face before her and cringe and craze.  And then it happened!  A realization that she didn’t have to live this way.  She had a choice.  Yes, she could indulge these thoughts and feelings, or she could release herself from unending trauma. She must recall the good times, the pleasant moments with her dad or she’d make herself sick and kill her kinship with her father forever. 

She decided to throw him a party. She hadn’t prayed to Jesus for deliverance, but faith is active even when we’re unconscious of it. Her preparations brought good memories forward to balance the bad ones. Her dad was not a determinedly daily tyrant. No, not at all.  She recalled moments of kindness, patience and generosity. Grace happened!  The party was a singular success and none of those who attended, especially dear dad, would ever know all that transpired in her heart.  She was free, her heart restored, and she thought, “Thank God!” Remember, friends, Eucharist means “Thanksgiving.”

Jesus’ Take on “The Grasshopper and The Ants”

HOMILY FOR 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 2019

Gospel: Lk 12:32-48

Five Hundred or so years before Jesus, Aesop recorded a Fable entitled “The Grasshopper and The Ants.”  It went like this:

One bright day in late autumn a family of Ants were bustling about in the warm sunshine, drying out the grain they had stored up during the summer, when a starving Grasshopper, his fiddle under his arm, came up and humbly begged for a bite to eat.

“What!” cried the Ants in surprise, “haven’t you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer?”

“I didn’t have time to store up any food,” whined the Grasshopper; “I was so busy making music that before I knew it the summer was gone.”

The Ants shrugged their shoulders in disgust.

“Making music, were you?” they cried. “Very well; now dance!” And they turned their backs on the Grasshopper and went on with their work.

Moral:  There’s a time for work and a time for play.

Sound a little bit like Jesus’ parable, doesn’t it?  BE PREPARED! Folk wisdom can be found throughout the ages in Ancient and Biblical literature alike.  WISDOM is a gift from the Holy Spirit, guaranteed in the Church and Synagogue but never limited to it. And we well know how wisdom builds on wisdom from one age to the next. So, what did Jesus add to the sagacity of his time for our time?  He says,  “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  His listeners knew full well He was speaking about the End Times—the End of All Things.  But they also knew that Promise of the Ages could be experienced in aspects of their lives in their day.  In our day, we know that Christ attends to us, is with us, guides us through Sacraments and all acts of faith, hope and love.

Jesus also says, those who are “prepared”– those who live open to Christ and His Spirit–will have great rewards in the here and now and future.  He also says those who are not prepared will be “beaten” – an image not to be taken literally but understood as “beaten down,” discouraged, despaired, debilitated by doubts, fears, vengeance, greed—the results of a faithless life.  

In the ensuing years, the fable of “The Grasshopper and the Ants” has evolved into one with more Christian aesthetics in the just the same way we have come to interpret what sounds like Jesus’ harsh sayings in newly inspired ways.  In the more recent rendition, the Ants have compassion on the Grasshopper, invite him into their colony for the winter to entertain them with his fiddle. Everybody eats to the sound of music, and afterward, dancing ensues, celebrating a kind of heavenly banquet!  The implication here is that with compassion comes a new consciousness that there’s a unique work for everyone to do –many gifts but one Spirit.

This vision of all working, living and playing together, adds much to how we read Jesus’ parable of the Faithful and Prudent Steward.  To get right down to it:  Why put us through the suffering of being without Christ, living in despair, hurt, anger, begrudging what we have or envying what we don’t have–when Jesus offers abundant hope, solace, energy and grace-filled resources as needed.  The Gospel reminds us that although Jesus is ever-present at our door, we are tempted not to open it, or we can’t or won’t because we’re more focused on our fiddling than on God who gave us the ability to fiddle in the first place!   On the surface Jesus’ parable threatens us with punishments for failing to live the Gospel.  More importantly, Providence inspires us to acknowledge our weakness and fallibilities not to cultivate guilt but to strengthen our resolve–if we let it–to hear Jesus knocking at our door and let him in!

HOW shall we keep the LIGHT of faith burning in our hearts and homes to let Jesus in?   We may do so by cultivating an ever enthusiastic “Yes”  to living with integrity, honesty, fairness in our work and leisure. We can cultivate a deeper Christ Awareness in what we choose to read, how we speak, engage in dialogue regarding family matters, news, politics or local community matters.  We do these things not to “please Jesus” who loves us unconditionally but to grow in solidarity with Him, to allow ourselves to experience His friendship more fully, conscious He is HERE and Comes to Us Continually.

Furthermore, we may live faith, hope and  love daily by saying “No” to lies, by refusing to ignore the deep realities of issues, people, places and things; by saying “No” to blaming others and saying “Yes” to exploring and sharing in solutions to daily dilemmas and wider woes of city, state and world. 

In Christ, and through Communion with Him, we allow ourselves to be Enlivened, energized by the Holy Spirit for all the work at hand, balanced by proper “sabbath” rest and leisure – all in a proper balance of time and place exemplified by the Change of Seasons, themes and ideas supported by fable and parable alike.    Humility offers Heaven on Earth as we affirm and live-out Jesus’ words: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”