Body & Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) Homily

Reading 1 Gn 14:18-20

Responsorial Psalm Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4

Reading 2 1 Cor 11:23-26

Gospel Lk 9:11b-17

As priests are obliged to do, I spent about a day’s work reflecting on the Scriptures for today and reading Commentaries by noted scholars and Spiritual Writers.  I am happy to share these insights with you.

The first comes from a book entitled LUKE FOR EVERYONE by Anglican Bishop and Scholar N. T. Wright  (pp107-108)

A popular interpretation of the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes is that it represents nothing more than an “Inspirational Moment” when , having heard Jesus preach, all the people –the 5,000 men and additional women and children—were inspired to share what food they had so that all were satisfied.  “No!” writes Bishop Wright.  For that version denies us the experience of the Glorious Impossible, the Cosmic God of Surprise.

In defense of his position, he reminds us that the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes occurs right after The Twelve Return from their first commission to preach the Gospel in the surrounding villages.  Jesus had sent them out with the instruction not to take a money bag.  Usually, traveling teachers would keep a bag for the alms they received.  Jesus wanted his disciples to be totally dependent on the kindness of strangers to give them food and shelter—only the barest necessities with nothing to retain, i.e. living hand to mouth, trusting in the Holy Spirit at work in the world, trusting in Providence.  The implication is that they had to relate honestly and openly with other people; they had to project their relationship with Jesus on to their relationship with others.

Today’s Gospel, the Bishop asserts, invites us to the same radical trust in God as it did the Twelve and all the others with them.  For indeed,  IF it was evident that the people in the crowd  had food with them and could share their provisions with other (the “practical” way of interpreting “the miracle”), the Twelve would not have been put-out by Jesus’s order “to give them food yourselves.”  No, there is no mention of food among the masses and the Twelve respond with a touch of irony and sarcasm: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.”  So, like their commission to preach, Jesus, once again, invited them and US to “go into the unknown, into a world where things aren’t normally like that, and to trust God completely.”   

Bishop Wright comments: “We aren’t called to believe that Jesus can, as it were, do tricks to order.  He wasn’t a magician.  What he did on this rare occasion was to allow God’s creative power to flow through him in a special way, as with his healings, but more so.”

I will add that this is the same Eucharistic reality are we invited to:  allow God’s creative power to flow through us as Jesus imbues our body with the essence of His Body and Blood in every aspect of the Mass –people gathered, in prayer, engaging the Scriptures, contemplation, hand-shaking, Eucharistic action and real presence, and commissioning forth.

Here is an example of some of the powerful mystery the Eucharist invites us to embrace from a short story entitled “Revelation” by Catholic author Flannery O’Connor.  (I found this in a book entitled A Retreat with Luke (‘s Gospel) by Barbara E. Reid, O.P. (St. Anthony Press)   p. 73-74

          Flannery O’Connor tells of Mrs. Ruby Turpin, a woman who prides herself on being a good woman who helps other people and is saved by Jesus.  Mrs. Turpin had a clear hierarchy of the classes of people.  On the bottom of the heap were (what she called—NOT ME) “colored people.” Then, just next to them, “white trash.” She and her husband, Claude, homeowners and landowners, were far above.

A disturbing incident in a doctor’s waiting room, in which Mrs. Turpin is assaulted by a “lunatic” young woman, who calls her “a wart hog from hell,” is followed by this vision:  She saw herself in the mud clinging to the edge or her very own hog pen:

“Until the sun slipped finally behind the tree line, Mrs. Turpin remained there . . . she lifted her head.  There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk . . . 

A visionary light settled in her eyes.  She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire.  Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. 

There were whole companions of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black (people) in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs.  And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right.

She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior.  They alone were on key.  Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.  She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead.  In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.

At length . . . (she got up and left the doctor’s office) . . .  and made her slow way on the darkening path to the house.  In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voice of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.”

The Eucharist, this miraculous Body of Christ, CORPUS CHRISTI, is transformed Bread and Wine and transforming You and Me.  In it, with it and through it,  Jesus humbles us, reduces us to common humanity and, I might add, to our connection to the hogs and every other animal, the trees, the waters, the winds, the mountains and our mutual dependence on a miracle-working God.

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Bibles and Bible Commentaries Recommendations

by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Start with an Excellent Annotated Bible with Commentaries:

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version –– Truly Ecumenical in scope by Marc Brettler (Editor), Carol Newsom (Editor), Pheme Perkins (Editor)
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-new-oxford-annotated-bible-with-apocrypha-marc-brettler/1127152046?ean=9780190276072#/

Little Rock Catholic Study Bible: Hardcover by Catherine Upchurch (Editor), Irene Nowell OSB (Editor), Ronald D. Witherup PSS (Editor)
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/little-rock-catholic-study-bible-cackie-upchurch/1123670830?ean=9780814636480

The Catholic Study Bible Edited by Donald Senior
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-catholic-study-bible-donald-senior/1124291551?ean=9780190267230

TANAKH (The Jewish Scriptures): THE JEWISH STUDY BIBLE, 2nd Edition
https://www.amazon.com/Jewish-Study-Bible-Second-dp-0199978468/dp/0199978468/ref=mt_hardcover?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=

If the Reader would like an Easy Read acquainting him/her/they a General Overview of biblical events with some good historical context:

DK Illustrated Family Bible by DK Publishing

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dk-illustrated-family-bible-dk-publishing/1111267339?ean=9781465402509#/

Excellent Illustrated Children’s Bibles:

THE CHILD’S Bible from Paulist Press (Beautifully illustrated)
http://www.paulistpress.com/Pages/centerright/child-bible_viewer.aspx

The Children’s Illustrated Bible (This one includes Historical Notes)
by Selina Hastings, Eric Thomas (Illustrator), Eric Thomas (Illustrator), Amy Burch (Illustrator)
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/childrens-illustrated-bible-selina-hastings/1102273483?ean=9780756602611#/

COMMENTARIES:

The Great Themes of Scripture Old Testament By Fr. Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos Cincinnati , Ohio : St. Anthony Messenger Press. 1987, rev. 1999
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/great-themes-of-scripture-richard-rohr-ofm/1114986317?ean=9780867160857

The Great Themes of Scripture New Testament. By Fr. Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos St. Anthony’s Messenger Press
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/great-themes-of-scripture-richard-rohr-ofm/1114986316?ean=9780867160987

101 Questions and Answers on the Bible by Ramond Brown
http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/4251-1/101-questions–answers-on-the-bible.aspx

Understanding Difficult Scriptures in a Healing Way by Rev. Matthew Linn, SJ, Dennis and Sheila Fabricant Linn
http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/4029-2/understanding-difficult-scriptures-in-a-healing-way.aspx

THINGS HIDDEN –Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/things-hidden-richard-rohr/1110785495?ean=9780867166590

Good Goats Healing Our Image of God by Matthew, Dennis and Sheila Fabricant Linn
http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/8295-4/good-goats.aspx

For more Intensive Study, there’s the new

NEW PAULIST BIBLICAL COMMENTARY:
http://www.paulistpress.com/Pages/centerright/cat_bib-comment_viewer.aspx

New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken OSB
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/new-collegeville-bible-commentary-daniel-durken-osb/1126193005?ean=9780814646595

(Or one can order a commentary on one book at a time such as:

Introduction to the Bible: Old Testament, Vol. 1 by Gregory W. Dawes (excerpted directly from New Collegeville Bible Commentary)
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/introduction-to-the-bible-gregory-w-dawes/1122991479?ean=9780814628355

Genesis, Part One by Joan E. Cook SC, Little Rock Scripture Study staff
(Same commentary as New Collegeville but INCLUDES the corresponding Biblical texts)
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/genesis-part-one-joan-e-cook-sc/1128809432?ean=9780814663707

Genesis, Volume 2 by Joan E. Cook SC (Same commentary as New Collegeville but INCLUDES the corresponding Biblical texts)
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/genesis-volume-2-joan-e-cook/1106924724?ean=9780814628362

For an Exclusively Jewish Commentary, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has an excellent series entitled COVENANT & CONVERSATION. The first in the series is:

Covenant & Conversation: Genesis: The Book of Beginnings by Jonathan Sacks https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/covenant-conversation-jonathan-sacks/1123484419?ean=9781592640201

Other In-Depth Commentaries for Beginners:

READING THE OLD TESTAMENT by Lawrence Boadt (Revised Edition)
http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/4780-9/reading-the-old-testament.aspx

READING THE NEW TESTMAENT by Pheme Perkins (Revised Edition)
http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/4786-1/reading-the-new-testament-3rd-edition.aspx

Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter

12 May 2019

Reading 1 Acts 13:14, 43-52 Responsorial Psalm Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5

Reading 2 Rev 7:9, 14b-17 Gospel Jn 10:27-30

Graduation Ceremonies, First Communions and Mother’s Day merge into sensibilities intimately connected with May, the Month of Mary, Mother of God who continually brings us closer to Mary’s child:  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Word Made Flesh.  All these annual MAY events gain greater significance when placed in conversation with Jesus’ words in today’s readings.

Jesus’ statements as the Good Shepherd make for one momentous Graduation Address: Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” 

In other words, Jesus is saying, “You are mine, just as a child is connected to its mother.”  Just as Graduations are touchstones to a lifetime of graduations growing in wisdom and life experiences, Jesus as Good Shepherd reminds us, we are nurtured by Him, educated by the Holy Spirit through faith and life experiences to grow in Wisdom, Understanding, Courage and more.

What could Jesus be saying to us in this and every Eucharist if not “You are with me always, and everything I have is yours –take and eat, live and affirm life in others.”  We must enlighten the new generations that First Communion is not merely a one-day event, but a point of entry into an expanding House of God that has no walls, no ceilings, no boundaries—a intimate moment with Jesus to strengthen one’s experiences of Jesus, alone, and with and through others for a lifetime.  How else may the  Kingdom of God—Peace on Earth, Good Will to All be accomplished?

But like any good graduation address, Jesus, our deliverer, offers caution.  Remember, Jesus speaks not only in the Gospel but through all the Scriptures. Today’s ACTS of the Apostles reading reminds us that living in the NOW and moving forward with Jesus isn’t easy.  Good News we will continually meet opposition and hardship just as there was “ persecution against Paul and Barnabas,” as they were “expelled them from their territory.”  Yet in Christ we find our courage just as Paul and Barnabas “shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”

When Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”  He articulates that same Eucharistic reality of JOY in His consistent presence in our lives, no matter the hardships we face. Indeed, people do try to lead us out of the kingdom of loving, forgiving, of humility, patience and kindness encouraging illusions of grandeur instead–why, we even do that to ourselves at times,–yet perseverance will be granted us as we appropriate the sacraments and scriptures as gifts of grace, experiences of Jesus for the journey. 

At one commencement address, Poet Laureate Maya Angelou once said:  “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 

The Good Shepherd finds us when we are lost and nurtures us like the best of mothers so that we rise above the loss, the regret, the foolishness of ourselves and others. Praying Mary’s Rosary reminds us of death—not for morbidity but for inspiration to live each day as our last, finding hope even in failures, the little “deaths” of every day.

In one of Steve Jobs’ last commencement addresses, he said: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

What are these statements put reiterations of Jesus’ Good Shepherd poetry?  Eternal life comes to those not afraid of dying in faith, hope and love!   Jesus entire life on earth demonstrates to us that impediments to grace will confront us, but God guides the faithful through each hurt, each betrayal, each failure.  As we allow Jesus’ story to connect intimately to ours, Jesus will deepen our humility, fortify our courage and expand hope illuminating us with Wisdom  This, in part,  is why Jesus died and rose—not eschewing pain and suffering but engaging in it for a greater purpose: transformation through continual dying and rising. 

The Book of Revelation today confirms this wholeheartedly: “I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. Then one of the elders said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Detective novelist Author Dashiell Hammett once wrote: “There are no great moments unless you have a pile of smaller moments to stand on.” 

Our small moment today is receiving the Word and Eucharist in a new way,  Trust in the virtue of humility, acknowledge we are like sheep, we need a Shepherd, we have a Shepherd, we can trust in our Shepherd.  Recognizing that in every Mass we receive a mighty infusion of grace to live now with a vision of what the future can be the more we cooperate with Jesus and His vision for the world. 

The inspiring abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote: “To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”  Is this not a reiteration of the humility embraced by so many Saints?

I quote these secular achievers to demonstrate that what is true and good in Jesus is universally good and true—no matter its source, no matter the faith or the virtue of the ones who articulate it.  Just as the efficacy of the Eucharist is not in any way dependent on the virtue or goodness of the priest who celebrates it. Still, in so many ways, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has determined to shepherd us through others—mothers, fathers, friends, writers, entrepreneurs, teachers, the poor and anyone through whom God wishes to instruct us. May today’s  mass open our eyes and ears to every truth, every grace in whoever stands before us so that both in and through the sacraments and in and through the world we will receive our Good Shepherd with greater authenticity, humility and love. And this is how we enter the realities of God’s kingdom today, tomorrow and for all eternity.

PS: Some other memorable quotes:

“Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” Melinda Gates

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Easter 2019

EASTER SERMON 2019 by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P. delivered at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Las Vegas, NV.

NOTE: My Easter homily became a Sermon in light of the tragedy of terrorism in Sri Lanka this morning. As a result I incorporated insights from my Good Friday homily into it. However if you scroll down on this page, you can read the original version I wrote, Or, if you’re pressed for time, scroll down further and read the shorter version I delivered at the Easter Vigil. To my surprise, the congregation applauded at this longer version!

2nd Note: On April 22, 2019 the Sri Lanka Government identified the suicide bombings coordinated by a local Islamic Terrorist Group: National Thowheeth Jama’ath calculating targeting Christians.

We arrived!  Arrived at the culmination of all things: Death and Resurrection.  It’s the heart of life; the promise of tomorrow and a sobering witness to the reality of good and evil in the world. 

This morning we are confronted with the news of another terrorist attack.  This time in three Catholic Churches in Sri Lanka and three hotels there.  People instinctively ask, “Why does God allow these things to happen?” It’s a natural question and the answer lies in what we have been exploring throughout Holy Week from Passion Sunday through Good Friday.  That question is posed somewhat differently but it is, essentially, the same question: “Why did God demand Jesus to suffer on the Cross?”  The Holy Spirit continues to inspire the Church and great spiritual writers and scripture scholars no longer accept the age-old explanation that God demanded Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for all the world’s sins. We are evolving a more honest response from an even older, less time-and-culture-conditioned theology:  Jesus is the full revelation of the invisible God.  Thus, we understand as Jesus surrendered to the Cross, exposing the sins of the world (all that led Jesus to Calvary—hatred, fear, envy, jealousy, greed, scapegoating and more) in order to offer the only antidote: Love-Forgiveness, we see God in this way, too.  Indeed, a studied view of biblical history reveals that from the beginning, God endured and surrendered to humanity’s sins because of the gift of Free-Will, one of the essential dimensions of the “Divine Spark,” the eternal soul in humanity that mirrors the image of God.   So, just as Jesus revealed on the Cross, God patiently endures the harm we do to ourselves and others, all the while inviting us to conversion, to repentance, to a better vision of ourselves and what our world can be. God’s constant call: Die to Sin, Live Anew in Me, transform yourselves and others. That’s the eternal Easter message

We look at the tragedy in Sri-Lanka and ask what does the world need? Practicality may advise more police, more military.  Yet don’t we know that contemporary police and military are now schooled in psychology and diplomacy—they’re learning how to disarm angry, violent frustrated individuals, tools that acknowledge their suffering, however, misguided, however insane, and invite them to alternative actions.  Christians everywhere must approach violence in just the same way, picking up the Cross to discern the causes of hatred, fear and violence and strive to eradicate the sins at their source.  It is believed the attacks are, once again, from Muslim fundamentalists. There’s a tendency to blame Islam.  But we know that millions of Muslims throughout the world are also victimized by the radical, fundamentalists in their midst. Christianity, too, has its fundamentalists who see all tragedies as a direct act of God, punishing humanity for its sins.  True, most fundamentalist Christians do not resort to physical violence, but their view is, at times, violent and causes great disruption, confusion and pain among Christians and others.  We need more dialogue with them to share how our biblical interpretations have grown.  And we need more conversation with our well-intentioned Muslim neighbors, locally, internationally, politically and religiously to help them and us address the roots of radical fundamentalism and its violence. God knows, even some of our nation’s policies with other countries, not intentionally, but inadvertently adds to some of the suffering of peoples in those countries and makes them vulnerable to fundamental radicals. The Cross of Jesus insists we join Christ in suffering with others in order to uncover evil’s sources and address them, heal them, transforming ourselves and the world in the process.  This too participates in the eternal pattern of dying and rising.  It’s more difficult work than blaming and addressing violence with more violence. It requires more patience, more faith, more hope, more love.

Let’s move now from the news, to another level of the Easter message: The Cross and Resurrection is the pattern of ultimate reality of all:  everything and everyone who ever was and ever will be.  From the astounding Big Bang, when Jesus voiced God’s creation into being- “Let there be LIGHT” and light, energy and all the elements of the material world came to be.  Participating in dying and rising that is the entire evolutionary process, we recognize the COSMIC CHRIST in whom we move and live and have our being.

Science tells us that asteroids formed around the stars, propelled into space by cosmic energy formed the planets –offering carbon and oxygen, silicon—essential material for life.  Their individual components remained but together, at the same time, they formed something new: planets orbiting around the sun.  In a sense, they died, yet retained their essence while transformed into a greater whole.  That’s the story of our planet, the story of all species, including ours. Why the carbon of asteroids and exploding stars is in us all—we have the Divine Spark, the immortal soul in us AND we are made of stardust, too! The instances of our continuity with the best, but in new forms, new dynamics are amazing.  Why we only recently discovered Neanderthal DNA in peoples of European descent. The Neanderthals are still with us, gone yet transformed!  Believe it!  This is the story of Jesus of Nazareth fully human and fully God, indivisible, whose human essence was retained but transformed into something new, more alive, in His Resurrection from the dead; a deeper reality to enjoy greater communion with us beyond the confines of time, of history and the limitations of earth.  ALIVE in every age, inviting every generation in be communion with Him. 

Too many people look at the science of evolution and think of it as cruel, meaningless and random. For that reason, and the scandal of too much biblical literalism, some people of faith reject it entirely. But Popes from Saint John Paul II to Benedict and Francis see in it NOT CRUELTY BUT CHRIST Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  For Evolution bears the stamp of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection.  Jesus tells “Do not be afraid” of this eternal pattern, be at peace with it, participate in this living and dying and get caught up in its ultimate resolution: eternity in a communion of Saints. 

Surrendering to dying and rising offers heavenly rewards but it also provides us with the only one, true valuable “immediate gratification:” literal experiences of heaven right here, right now. Today and every day the Resurrected Jesus cries out to us, “Peace be with You. Don’t be afraid to DIE to sin. Don’t be afraid to enter into your suffering and the suffering of others, for I am with you. WITH ME you can do anything, including transforming the causes of sin and suffering so this old world can become something new. 

Meanwhile, we must be mindful that much of our World rejects this Paschal Mystery.  It distains the Cross and its life-giving properties. It denies death—creating an Eternal Youth Culture that ignores the wisdom that comes from the process of aging.  And yet, all the world’s philosophies recognize the importance of the eternal pattern:  we humans die repeatedly—from infancy to childhood, to youth, to middle age, to senior years–each in their own time, each with their own lessons of pain and recovery, failures and successes, dying and growing in wisdom.   Part of EASTER GLORY is knowing that the sins of our past, now that we are in Communion with Christ, become a treasure chest of wisdom—not of guilt or regret but of determination to change because of the Love-Forgiveness Jesus offered from the Cross. Still, great challenges confront us:  so many peoples of our world, Christians and non-Christians alike remain unwilling to learn from biblical history and world history and continue to perpetuate the same cruel realities, cultivating death by advancing at the expense of others rather than the mutual uplifting of all peoples.   

But for us in the light of Easter we stand with the Resurrected Jesus.  Like our Savior, we vow today never to cause death but to surrender to it in its natural progressions, ready to learn from it, unafraid to be humbled by it and transformed into new ways of living, of loving, of hoping—the GREAT REVERSAL, THE STAMP OF THE SCRIPTURES, THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL. And, how wonderful for your local church this Easter, last night 17 people of various ages, joined us in Christ, baptized and in Catholic communion along with thousands of others throughout the world in Easter Vigils.

The World may thrive self-aggrandizement, power and manipulation.  Jesus offers us the opposite:  humility, surrender, transformative faith, freely chosen, freely engaged in—the freedom of being Children of God who doesn’t manipulate us, but continually invites us to be and to live as we were meant to live from the beginning, CAN BE NOW, and with God’s Amazing Grace, ever shall be.  Happy, Joyous, Ecstatic Easter, everyone!

SERMON # 2: Here’s the HOMILY I wrote PRIOR to hearing about the bombings in Sri Lanka:

We’ve arrived!  Arrived at the culmination of all things: Death and Resurrection.  We began Holy Week affirming that God is Love-Forgiveness incarnated in Christ Jesus. 

We explored on Holy Thursday the confirmation of the GREAT REVERSAL –humanity choosing a “GOD”-centered life instead of a “ME”-centered life.  For this ongoing conversion, we must forever keep in our hearts and minds the Holy Thursday image of our mighty God’s tenderness: Jesus washing the feet of sinful, base yet precious and holy humanity –all these aspects represented by the Apostles. Allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed with such an affectionate display of God’s Love-Forgiveness, we ask our God to make for us every Eucharist a dying to sin, rejuvenating us to rise to serve God through patience, kindness and compassion to all our siblings, i.e. all children of God.

Yesterday we contemplated the Cross and how Jesus suffered to assure us he is with us in our suffering. He also invites us to enter into suffering of others.  This is how He will transform us and our world. The Easter Mystery invites us to absorb  this reality, to be filled and transformed into new wineskins—honoring the old ways, but not clinging to them that we deny ourselves the gifts of living with JESUS in the present moment, willing to invite Him to helps us grow, mature and offer fresh wine to others.   

And, speaking of “NEW WINE,” it is important we continue to wrestle with, discuss and share how the Church has come to understand Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s evolving!  We are moving beyond the old ways that interpreted the crucifixion as God’s demand for sacrifice by revisiting deeper insights of an older, more consistent tradition: “Jesus if the full revelation of the invisible God.” Thus as Jesus surrendered to the Cross not because God demanded it—God’s will was that the KINGDOM, new way of living and loving be accepted—but to remind the world how God endured, surrendered to human folly, sin and sickness with infinite patience from the beginning even unto now.  Bring this conversation into your Easter dinner:  Jesus died on the Cross to expose the sins of the world—hate, fear, envy, jealousy, greed, scapegoating—to provide the only antidote to sin:  LOVE-FORGIVENESS, the very heart of God. This is the insight of our generations. New generations will add their own revelations as the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church through dying and rising.

Life, Death and Rebirth manifested in Christ continues to be manifested through the Church but far beyond it as well.  The Cross and Resurrection is the pattern of ultimate reality of all:  everything and everyone who ever was and ever will be.  From the astounding Big Bang, when Jesus voiced God’s creation into being- “Let there be LIGHT” and light, energy and all the elements of the material world came to be.  Participating in dying and rising that is the entire evolutionary process, we recognize the COSMIC CHRIST in whom we move and live and have our being.

Science tells us that asteroids formed around the stars, propelled into space by cosmic energy formed the planets –offering carbon and oxygen, silicon—essential material for life.  Their individual components remained but together, at the same time, they formed something new: planets orbiting around the sun.  In a sense, they died, yet retained their essence while transformed into a greater whole.  That’s the story of our planet, the story of all species, including ours. Why the carbon of asteroids and exploding stars is in us all—we have the Divine Spark, the immortal soul in us AND we are made of stardust, too! The instances of our continuity with the best, but in new forms, new dynamics are amazing.  Why we only recently discovered Neanderthal DNA in peoples of European descent. The Neanderthals are still with us, gone yet transformed!  Believe it!  This is the story of Jesus of Nazareth fully human and fully God, indivisible, whose human essence was retained but transformed into something new, more alive, in His Resurrection from the dead; a deeper reality to enjoy greater communion with us beyond the confines of time, of history and the limitations of earth.  ALIVE in every age, inviting every generation in be communion with Him. 

Too many people look at the science of evolution and think of it as cruel, meaningless and random. For that reason, and the scandal of too much biblical literalism, some people of faith reject it entirely. But Popes from Saint John Paul II to Benedict and Francis see in it NOT CRUELTY BUT CHRIST Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  For Evolution bears the stamp of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection.  Jesus tells “Do not be afraid” of this eternal pattern, be at peace with it, participate in this living and dying and get caught up in its ultimate resolution: eternity in a communion of Saints. 

Surrendering to dying and rising offers heavenly rewards but it also provides us with the only one, true valuable “immediate gratification:” literal experiences of heaven right here, right now. Today and every day the Resurrected Jesus cries out to us, “Peace be with You. Don’t be afraid to DIE to sin. Don’t be afraid to enter into your suffering and the suffering of others, for I am with you. WITH ME you can do anything, including transforming the causes of sin and suffering so this old world can become something new. 

Meanwhile, we must be mindful that much of our World rejects this Paschal Mystery.  It distains the Cross and its life-giving properties. It denies death—creating an Eternal Youth Culture that ignores the wisdom that comes from the process of aging.  And yet, all the world’s philosophies recognize the importance of the eternal pattern:  we humans die repeatedly—from infancy to childhood, to youth, to middle age, to senior years–each in their own time, each with their own lessons of pain and recovery, failures and successes, dying and growing in wisdom.   Part of EASTER GLORY is knowing that the sins of our past, now that we are in Communion with Christ, become a treasure chest of wisdom—not of guilt or regret but of determination to be change because of the Love-Forgiveness Jesus offered from the Cross. Still, great challenges confront us:  so many peoples of our world, Christians and non-Christians alike remain unwilling to learn from biblical history and world history and continue to perpetuate the same cruel realities, cultivating death by advancing at the expense of others rather than the mutual uplifting of all peoples.   

But for us in the light of Easter we stand with the Resurrected Jesus.  Like our Savior, we vow today never to be the cause death but to surrender to it in its natural progressions, ready to learn from it, unafraid to be humbled by it and transformed into new ways of living, of loving, of hoping—the GREAT REVERSAL, THE STAMP OF THE SCRIPTURES, THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL. And, how wonderful for your local church this Easter, last night 17 people of various ages, joined us in Christ, baptized and in Catholic communion along with thousands of others throughout the world in Easter Vigils. The World may thrive self-aggrandizement, power and manipulation.  Jesus offers us the opposite:  humility, surrender, transformative faith, freely chosen, freely engaged in—the freedom of being Children of God who doesn’t manipulate us, but continually invites us to be and to live as we were meant to live from the beginning, CAN BE NOW, and with God’s Amazing Grace, ever shall be.  Happy, Joyous, Ecstatic Easter,

SERMON # 3: Here’s the SHORTER VERSION delivered at the EASTER VIGIL

We’ve arrived!  Arrived at the culmination of all things: Death and Resurrection. 

We began Holy Week affirming that God is Love-Forgiveness incarnated in Christ Jesus whose death exposed all the sins of the world in order to forgive them in an unconditional love. 

We explored on Holy Thursday the confirmation of the GREAT REVERSAL – God’s plan for humanity since the Original Sin when humans chose a “ME”-centered life instead of a GOD-centered life.  Through the Covenant with Israel and the Promises of Christ, God continues to invite us to reverse that pattern.

We were invited to hold that image of the Eucharist—that experience of “God with us,” the communion we participate in every day or every Sunday, week after week, year after year—holding that experience in our hearts, living it daily, with the Holy Thursday image of our mighty God’s tenderness: Jesus washing the feet of sinful, base humanity represented by the Apostles, making every Eucharist a dying to sin and a renewal to rise to serve God through kindness and compassion to others.

Yesterday we contemplated the Cross and how Jesus suffered to assure us he is with us in our suffering and to invite us to enter into suffering of others with Him so he may transform us and those who suffer with faith, hope and love.

Now the suffering is over for we have contemplated in new, fresh ways some of the heights of depths of the Great Mystery of God of Peace, as Jesus offered PEACE, not recrimination to the disciples and evermore offers Peace to us, regardless of our denials, betrayals or failures.  The Easter Mystery invites us to absorb  this reality, to be filled and transformed into new wineskins—honoring the old, but not so clinging to them that we deny ourselves the gifts of living in the present moment with Jesus willing to grow, to mature and ready to offer fresh wine to others.   

Life, Death and Rebirth are manifested in Christ and all who experience Jesus.  Yes.  But His pattern is the ultimate reality of all, of everything and everyone who ever was and ever will be.  From the astounding Big Bang, when Jesus voiced God’s creation into being-“Let there be LIGHT” and light, energy and all the elements of the material world came to be to the dying and rising of the entire evolutionary process, we recognize the COSMIC CHRIST in whom we move and live and have our being.

Just as asteroids formed around the stars, propelled by cosmic energy beyond them to form planets –offering carbon and oxygen, silicon—essential material for life.  Their individual components remained but together, at the same time, they formed something.  In a sense, they died but retained their essence while still becoming something new.  That the story of our planet, the story of all species, including ours and the story of Jesus of Nazareth fully human and revealed as fully God indivisible in His Resurrection, his human essence retained but transformed into something new, more alive, in a sense, with greater communion with God and us than ever before; ALIVE in every age, every generation in communion with Him.  And, mystery beyond glory, love beyond all telling, Jesus offers us the same NOW and onto Eternity. 

Too many people look at the science of evolution and think of it as cruel, meaningless and random and so some people of faith reject it entirely. But Popes from Saint John Paul II to Benedict and Francis see in it not cruelty but Christ Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  For Evolution bears the stamp of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection.  Jesus tells “Do not be afraid” of this eternal pattern, be at peace with it, participate in this life to be caught up into its resolution for all eternity’.  Yes, surrendering to it offers heavenly rewards but also the only true valuable “immediate gratification,” literal experiences of resurrection, of heaven right here, right now. Today and every day the Resurrected Jesus cries out to us, “Peace be with You. Don’t be afraid to die to sin. Don’t be afraid to enter into your suffering and the suffering of others, for I am with you; with me you can do anything, including transforming the causes of sin and suffering and become something new.  Not perpetuating the ways of the world but participating in God’s ways, creating a kingdom here on earth that mirrors all the realities and promises of heaven. And in our heart of hearts we know this is true.

The World rejects the Paschal Mystery.  It distains the Cross and its life-giving properties. It denies death when it can—creating as it has an Eternal Youth Culture that ignores the wisdom that comes from the process of aging.  And yet, all the world’s philosophies recognizes the human realities that we die repeatedly– to childhood, to adolescence, to youth, to middle age, to  senior years–each in their own time, each with their own lessons of pain and recovery, failures and successes, dying and growing in wisdom.   On the other hand, the world also participates in death, causing death while ignoring its repercussions, the consequences of evil it cultivates in its wake. Not willing to learn from its history but perpetuating the same cruel realities.

But for us in the light of Easter we stand with the Resurrected Jesus.  Like our Savior, we vow we will not cause death but we surrender to it in order to learn from it, unafraid to be humbled by it and to transform into new ways of living, of loving, of hoping—the GREAT REVERSAL, THE STAMP OF THE SCRIPTURES, THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL.

The World thrives on self-aggrandizement, power and manipulation.  Jesus offers us the opposite:  humility, surrender, transformative faith, freely chosen, freely engaged in—the freedom of being Children of God, the same NOW and onto Eternity.  Happy, Joyous, Ecstatic Easter, everyone!

ASH WEDNESDAY 2019

Homily by Paulist Father James DiLuzio


Fire, smoke and ash were part of the Earth’s beginnings.  Each made their contribution to the atmosphere and to the land.  Volcanic ash contains various amounts of soil nutrients that eventually allowed the plants to grow.[i]  So from the beginning, ashes represented death but also life, the end of life and the beginning of something new. The message of death to life is primeval in the very heart of nature and in the first tribes of human beings. Initially,  of course, the first impression is that of death alone.  Mourners rolled themselves on the earth to show solidarity with the dead buried beneath them. In early Judaism ashes had two connotations:  grieving the dead and nothingness –the inconsequential realities of all things human in contrast the greatness and glory of God. To these time and experience embossed additional meaning upon ashes:  mortification due to guilt tied to remorse for sins committed. 


All of these understandings echo through our Ash Wednesday rituals for there is nothing so sobering, so humbling, so freeing as recognizing death as the common denominator for all human persons – the great, the small, the powerful, the powerless, the rich, the poor, the healthy, the sick. Ashes insist we ask the questions “why are we here?” and “what do we believe?”  Do we embrace all the aspects of ashes—the grieving, the repentance, the cosmic realities that death does indeed give way new life?  Jesus assured us that “blessed are those who mourn” and that repentance is the only proper mindset to appreciate the full weight of God’s mercy, to appropriate the forgiveness that flows freely from a God of unconditional love—REPENTANCE that not only indicates sorrow for the harm we have brought upon ourselves from our thoughts, words and deeds but the harm our words and actions and inactions bring upon others but, in the best sense, REPENTANCE means CHANGE OF HEART, CHANGE OF MIND, THE WAY WE THINK, THE WAY WE LIVE.  JESUS by taking on the fullness of humanity INSISTS WE LIVE AS HE LIVED, THINK AS HE THOUGHT, becoming his eyes and ears, his mind and vision, his words and actions for all people in our lives and in our world.  For today– as it will be in the future–all people—believers and nonbelievers– need tangible reassurance that faith matters, that patience, kindness and forgiveness are earthly realities that reveal heavenly realities. 

In these ashes we die to FEAR and are RAISED to that YOU and I -with no exceptions—are INDEED the MANIFESTATIONS, the INCARNATIONS of GOD IS WITH US and  THROUGH US BECAUSE OF THE ONE WHO LOVES US and came to be ONE WITH US ON EARTH, guiding us onto eternal life.   Yes, today, we die again to the fear that we are not unconditionally loved and RISE to the Courage to BE CHRIST for others and with others.

Are we ready to come “down to earth” as Jesus did?  To BE humble, ever-conscious of the preciousness of life, our lives, thankful for WHO we are and WHAT we are, THANKFUL FOR A LIVING FAITH that sees our sins and failures all within a bigger vision:  that without humility, power is evil, without sobriety,  passions become addictions, without knowledge of and commitment toward THE INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF ALL THINGS–all peoples with peoples, with nature, with God through a cosmic communion,  faith is shallow, life is wasted.  Yes, at times we do  belong on an ash heap but NEVER FEAR:   the Holy Spirit cultivates the SPIRITUAL NUTRIENTS IN US to make faith alive, our lives “ALIVE” and worth living and dying for—because from the beginning, God declared all this –life, death, repentance, dying and rising BAPTIZED IN JESUS, CONFIRMED IN JESUS, IN COMMUNION WITH JESUS OFFERING COMMUNION, PATIENCE, FORGIVENESS, NEW WAYS OF LIVING TO THE WORLD –YES, GOD SAID THIS WAS GOOD.  SO VERY, VERY GOOD. WELCOME TO LENT!  


[i] SOIL ENRICHMENT:  Volcanic eruptions result in ash being dispersed over wide areas around the eruption site. And depending on the chemistry of the magma from which it erupted, this ash will be contain varying amounts of soil nutrients. While the most abundant elements in magma are silica and oxygen, eruptions also result in the release of water, carbon dioxide (CO²), sulfur dioxide (SO²), hydrogen sulfide (H²S), and hydrogen chloride (HCl), amongst others.   Taken from: https://www.universetoday.com/32576/benefits-of-volcanoes/

Other Sources:

online Jewish Encyclopedia: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1944-ashes

From:  https://sknobloch88.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/ash-wednesday-and-ancient-gods/

Indian beliefs.  Agni was the ancient Indian God of Fire, believed to be the deity to cleanse and purify the body of sins.  The Romans adapted this God’s name in the Latin word ignis,  for fire.  And how we derived the present word ignite.

So, as the Catholics believe………”Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust”……….all is connected, and everything returns to its source.

All religion has common links

An Idea for Church Accountability– Any thoughts? (Revised 3/5/2019)

I have an idea for accountability for living, often retired priests, bishops and lay administrators who did not act responsibly when allegations of abuse came from children and/or their families– specifically I am referring to those superiors / priests/ bishops/ lay administrators who did not believe the victims when they first came forward
and/or did not support them through the criminal investigations, if any.  I think those “deniers” need to be directed by QUALIFIED LAY PROFESSIONALS first to work through their guilt and /or any resistance they may have (or have had) accepting the truth and then to learn tools for making emotional and spiritual amends to victims. This would be a true Reconciliation ministry far above and beyond what happens in and through the courts. From this could come a second phase of reconciliation ministry that begins with overtures to the victims to take advantage of lay professionals (through or outside of the Church as they choose) with options that include a professionally facilitated process with the goal of reconciling victims with the family members and friends who denied them immediate care and/or who forestalled or denied them justice. Processes such as these would offer victims greater hope for integrity in all their relationships in the present and future. A third phase would offer victims the choice to confront their abusers(or surrogate if the abuser is deceased or in a mental institution) in a safe environment facilitated by lay professionals if the victim and his or her health professionals deem such a confrontation beneficial. A fourth phase would offer victims the choice of entering a process that could help them forgive their abuser/ perpetrators “IN THEIR HEARTS” so the victims can be free of recurring memories of their abuse and all the associated fears and traumas. The biblical story of Susanna and Daniel in the Biblical Book of Daniel could be the spiritual foundation for this ministry.

I believe the Church owes victims and their families many extended opportunities such as these IN ADDITION to the monetary compensation offered through the legal system because these kind of reconciliation ministries are central to the Gospel. Hopefully some or most of these steps are already being taken by lay professionals paid for by the Church directly or through court settlements. However, the love of Christ through the believing Church would be particularly manifest if all victims received the follow up and follow-through in all four phases and any others that healing from molestation warrants. Indeed, it is common knowledge that many families have longstanding histories of denial of abuse and corresponding addictions of all kinds. Should the Church formally sponsor programs and procedures that empower psychologists and other behavioral science professionals to address these conditions would mark a positive advancement in the Church’s recovery and return to integrity. Any thoughts?

The Times Are A’Changing

The only thing good about the scandals in the Roman Catholic Church is the way they have brought to light the abuse of power, the realities of sexual deviance, encouragement of healing for victims and accountability for perpetrators in all sectors of society. Signs of hope are in the Church this week at the Special Vatican convocation, the Me Too Movement, procedural changes in Church, Education, Sports, Medical, Scouts institutions. Acknowledgment of cover-ups of sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention is another sad but necessary development in the quest for healing and ongoing prevention. See this Washington Post article: