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September 12, 2013

"To What Lengths". On September 2, 2013 at the age of 64, Diana Nyad completed a roughly 110 - mile swim from Cuba to Florida. Fighting off jellyfish and chilly waters, not to mention the danger of getting attacked by fierce sharks, Diana swam for more than 48 hours to reach her goal, which she had previously attempted four times and failed. She is now the first person to officially complete the swim without the help of a shark cage. For me, this is a tremendous physical feat and a display of relentless will power. She definitely went to great lengths to achieve her dream. Interestingly, the Scriptural readings for this Sunday speak similarly about the determination of God, who goes to great lengths to show mercy and to find even one lost individual.

September 6, 2013

This Sunday and its Scripture readings come as a lot of us are get things underway again as fall arrives.  Labor Day has passed.  The school year has begun.  And the days of summer have flown by too quickly - as they always seem to do. 

August 28, 2013

Every culture has its proverbs-pithy sayings that give wisdom about how to live well. The readings from both Sirach and the gospel pass on proverbial wisdom about the virtue of humility. This is earthy wisdom. The word humility comes from the Latin word humilis, which means literally "on the ground," deriving from humus, "earth." So when we are advised to humble ourselves, it is an invitation to be "grounded," to be attentive to our connectedness with Earth. This entails consciousness of our interconnectedness with all persons and all Earth's creatures and with God. As Ben Sira, who penned the book of Sirach, avers, in humbling oneself one finds favor with God. In other words, through humility we gain proper consciousness of our place in relation to God.

August 21, 2013
All are God's people. As surprising as it may seem, there is a divine characteristic that many religious people find very troublesome. It is God's universal concern for all the people of the world. It seems that some people resent the thought that God would be gracious toward people who hold different religious and political views. They prefer to see such people punished for their errors rather than accepted by God and even saved.
August 14, 2013
Where's the good news? The word "Gospel" means "good news" but after listening to the Gospel reading for this Sunday we could legitimately ask, "Where's the good news here?" Jesus, who we most often associate with peace and forgiveness, presents himself rather as a source of division. "I have come to set the earth on fire " and "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No I tell you, but rather division." Is this really Jesus, the "prince of peace?"
August 7, 2013
The phrase 'Seeing is believing' is well known to us all. It suggests skepticism; it implies that we will not accept the truth of something unless we can somehow see it ourselves. While the phrase may validly express a concern for verification, it contradicts basic religious faith. To paraphrase the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews: 'Not-seeing is believing.' This phrase may, at first, be difficult to grasp? But then so is real faith.
July 31, 2013

"Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!" At first glance, this well-known saying from the Book of Ecclesiastes sounds very pessimistic. Some might say that the rest of that biblical book gets even worse. However, such an evaluation is a misreading of a very sobering yet genuine perspective on life's pursuits, but not on life itself. This phrase from the ancient sage, the responsorial psalm for today, and the story in the gospel underscore what we all know so well from experience, namely, that everything and everyone is 'here today and gone tomorrow.' Because of this fact, the author of Ecclesiastes insists that the meaning of life cannot be found in possessions that do not last.

July 24, 2013

Some years ago a friend's wife was ill and needed surgery. My friend was terrified, as his wife of thirty years had never been sick. He began bargaining with God. He promised God that if she came through the surgery and recovered, he would give up cigarettes. He quit cold turkey right then and there. She recovered quickly after the surgery and returned to excellent health. In the gospel today Jesus tells a parable, followed by several sayings, to convey how extraordinarily loving and gracious God is and how greatly God wants to shower us with what is good. We don't have to try to convince God to be generous toward us-that is the very thing God wants to do!

July 17, 2013

Martha always gets a bad rap. In traditional interpretations of her story she is said to be too preoccupied or anxious about the details of hospitality to attend well to her guest. Her sister, by contrast, sits in rapt attention at Jesus' feet, drinking in his every word. When Jesus declares that it is Mary who has "chosen the better part," the message we are supposed to take away, according to many commentators, is that contemplation rather than active service is the harder but better choice, and that no one can minister without first sitting and learning at Jesus' feet. While finding the right balance between contemplation and action is a perennial challenge for most Christians, that may not actually be the question that today's gospel addresses. There are many tensions in the story left unanswered by the traditional interpretation.

July 8, 2013
Today's readings offer us two conflicting images: one of abundance and rejoicing; the other of the cross and self-denial. One might think that these two images cannot be harmonized. However, if we look carefully, we can see how they really do fit together. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin.