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March 25, 2015
In recent years I was in Minneapolis on Palm Sunday. Friends of mine took me to the Palm Sunday liturgy at the Basilica of Saint Mary. I expected to experience a rather ordinary celebration. As usual, Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was proclaimed, palms were blessed, and a procession with palms followed. But how cared for and prayerful the procession was! We received palms woven into beautiful, intricate patterns. The white-robed choir, sixty some strong, led us into the Basilica to chant strains of Hosanna. We circled the entire assembly before walking up the main aisle toward the altar where we would celebrate the Paschal Mystery. Following that white-robed choir, embraced by mantra-like chant, I was overwhelmed by the sense that we were caught up in that procession with palm branches begun two millennia ago in the dusty streets of Jerusalem. This is what our people have always done, I thought; the procession welcoming Jesus so long ago is still going on. That is how our people always begin the celebration of Holy Week. That is what Egeria, a 4th century pilgrim to Jerusalem, recorded in her diary
March 11, 2015
"Early and often" is a phrase more associated with Chicago voting patterns than with sacred scripture, but the Chronicler uses it in the first reading of the Cycle B readings to describe God's attempts to offer salvation to humanity. "Early and often," he says, God had compassion on the community of Israel, and offered them the means for returning to their relationship with the Lord. This is one of several "covenant stories" that we have in the B Cycle of readings for Lent. We have heard about the covenant that God made with the whole world in the story of Noah; and on the second and third Sundays, we are reminded of the covenants through Abraham and Moses. On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we will hear the prophet Jeremiah announce God's intention to establish a new covenant, written on the hearts of God's people, that they cannot walk away from any more than they can walk away from themselves.
March 5, 2015
The optional Year A reading for this Sunday is the first of three special sets of scripture for the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent for parishes with people in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program - those preparing for Baptism (or full communion in the Catholic Church) on the Easter Vigil. This final and more intense preparation time for the catechumens (with their sponsors and catechists) is also an invitation to the broader Christian community to reflect on, and renew, their baptismal commitments around three central Christian images from these Year A readings: moving from thirsting to life-giving water; from blindness/darkness to sight/light; from death to new life. Today's readings focus on the first in the trilogy.
February 25, 2015
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31) What kind of parents would meekly comply with an order to kill their only child? What kind of God would ask such a thing? Disturbing questions arise from today's first reading, which opens: "God put Abraham to the test." In what follows, the narrative is more like a call story. God calls Abraham by name, and, just as Samuel did (1 Sam 3:3), twice he responds,"Here I am!" Call stories emphasize the eager willingness of a person to respond to God, as well as the great sacrifices they are asked to make for the sake of the mission. Genesis 12 recounts the call of Abraham and his willingness, even at the age of seventy-five, to leave his home in Haran to journey into the unknown. Abraham has shown himself responsive to all that God asks; he has committed himself fully to God in a covenant (Gen 15:1-21). Unsettling questions arise as we ponder why God would now demand that Abraham sacrifice his precious son, an act that would seem to make impossible the fulfillment of God's promise of numerous descendants.
February 18, 2015
Where's the Good News? Lent begins this year as national and international events come to us as decidedly bad news. The ongoing atrocities of ISIL against Christians, and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq never seem to end. The barbaric execution of a Jordanian pilot by being burned alive has horrified the world and, along with the slaying of 22 Coptic Christians in Libya, adds an even more horrendous dimension to the conflict in the Middle East. The war in the Ukraine between Russian supported rebels and the pro-western Ukrainian government grinds on, displacing tens of thousand of innocent civilians in the midst of a frigid winter. Unsafe boats filled with desperate migrants from North Africa fleeing civil chaos in Africa and the Mideast routinely flounder on the high seas, killing thousands every year and, to use Pope Francis' words, "are turning the Mediterranean into a vast cemetery." Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, leading to a call by Benjamin Netanyahu for Jews to abandon Europe and take refuge in Israel. In the U.S. social tension is rising around what is perceived to be racial profiling and the all too frequent deaths of young people of color by law enforcement in many parts of the country.
February 11, 2015

Not in my neighborhood!

Sometimes we may be willing to support good works as long as they are not set up in our neighborhood. It may be true that property value plummets when someone opens a halfway house or a hospice around the corner. This decline in value may also happen when the owners of that trendy ethnic restaurant move into the house next door. It is possible for us to agree that people have a right to live and prosper and receive the care that they need. But does this have to happen in our neighborhood?

February 4, 2015

Theme: Jesus lifts us up

January 28, 2015

A popular connotation of the word prophet is one who foretells the future; not so, the prophets of the Bible. Walter Brueggemann is a scripture scholar whose primary work is in the prophetic literature, and he describes a prophet in this way:

January 21, 2015

As I reflected on the Scripture readings for this Sunday, I was reminded of a friend of mine who died of cancer a few years ago. Mary (not her real name) was in her fifties, and she left behind a husband and two children. I got to know the family not long after I was ordained a priest. Mary was a lively person who loved a good joke and had a hearty laugh. She was also a person of deep faith. It was clear that she loved God, treasured her Catholic faith, and tried to live out that faith through prayer and action.