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April 17, 2016

Readings:
First Reading: ACTS 13:14, 43-52
Responsorial Psalm: PS 100: 1-3, 5
Second Reading: REV 7:9, 14B-17
Gospel: JN 10:27-30

April 10, 2016
The readings for this Sunday lead me to ponder the notion of worthiness. Peter and the other apostles are "found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name" of Jesus and Christ himself, the Lamb, is declared worthy "to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing." What Peter and Jesus have in common is not just worthiness, but the basis for that worthiness. What makes Peter and the apostles worthy? Obedience to God. What makes the Lamb -- who was slain -- worthy? Obedience to God. When I think about this I find myself a little envious of the apostles. Not because of their suffering, of course, but because of their absolute determination to do what they knew God had called them to do. (OK, the truth is that I find myself thinking I should be envious of the apostles. What's the old prayer? "Make me want to want to be better?")
April 3, 2016
"Wish you were here!" At every resort and vacation spot, twirling postcard displays always have some colorful cards with this expression splashed across a front photo. Alternately, people can choose to write this wish on that miniscule blank section on the back side of a post card. Does the post-card sender really wish we were there? Or are they just trying to make us jealous?
March 27, 2016
Beyond a "Dragnet" Approach to Easter. Anyone who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s remembers the TV show "Dragnet." It was one of the first programs that tried to show a realistic portrayal of police work through the eyes of two detectives "working the day watch" in Los Angeles (although looking back on it now the acting was rather stiff and the dialogue rather unconvincing). In the investigation of all kinds of crimes, Sgt. Joe Friday and his sidekick, two unemotional and deadpan detectives, would try to calm down a witness that was getting too emotional or who was embellishing his or her testimony by instructing them: "Just the facts, please, just the facts."
March 20, 2016
Obedient Unto Death. "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me" (Luke 22:19) I remember as a child looking at gruesome pictures of the crucified Jesus in our family Bible. I was very disturbed by them, but I found comfort in thinking that since Jesus was God he didn't feel the suffering in the same way we would. I also knew that he was unique and thought that what happened to him would not happen to anybody else. The gospel, however, makes very clear that what Jesus underwent as a rejected prophet can, indeed, be asked of any of his disciples. In addition, it portrays for us how to prepare for and how to endure suffering that comes from following in his footsteps.
March 13, 2016
Our Scripture readings for this week focus on three interrelated themes: a new beginning, transformation and forgiveness/mercy. In the gospel reading from John we might say that Jesus is acting here in the key of Pope Francis. Jesus is clearly showing the woman the mercy that Pope Francis has identified as a core element of the Scriptures. Both Isaiah and the Pauline-inspired reading from Philippians look to a transformed future arising in part from the impact of Jesus' suffering on our behalf and our willingness to join with him in these sufferings.
March 6, 2016
What's wrong with this picture? That's the first question I urge my students to ask of a parable like the one we find in today's Gospel. Parables are the biblical version of a bait and switch. They introduce you to a scene that seems familiar enough. In this case, a dissolute younger sibling, a jealous older sibling, and a ridiculously generous parent. They invite you into the narrative, so that you begin to identify with the characters, and you think you know where the story is going. As Luke presents this parable, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and Scribes who are grumbling about whom Jesus eats with-in this case, tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15:1-2). We have to hear the parable through the first century ears of the narrative audience (these Pharisees and Scribes) and Luke's authorial audience (those he expected would hear his gospel). What's wrong with this picture for them? First, for the son to ask his father for his inheritance is tantamount to saying, "I wish you were already dead." Sirach 33:20-24 warns against such action, which could lead to financial ruin. Not to mention the shame brought upon the family! Children were expected to honor and obey their parents (Exod 20:12). In Roman society, the father had patria potestas-life and death over his children. So the first surprise is not only that the son is so very disrespectful, but that the father gives in to his request!
February 28, 2016

Those of us, who were raised on some kind of catechism, whether it was the pre-Vatican Baltimore Catechism, the Dutch Catechism that was popular during the 60's and 70's, or today's Catechism of the Catholic Church, were taught a list of the attributes of God. This included traits such as: all-present; all-knowing; all-loving, etc. We might know what such characteristics mean, but when it comes right down to it, we must admit that we really have very little understanding of the nature of God. Today's readings confirm this. Each reading in its own way reminds us that God and the ways of God are truly mysterious.

February 21, 2016
Not long after I joined the Franciscans, I went through a difficult time and needed to get some help. One of my Franciscan brothers, whom I hadn't known very well before, began to visit me regularly and prayed especially for me every day. One morning when he was sitting with me, I told him how much I appreciated his extraordinary kindness and compassion in all the ways he supported me in a time of great vulnerability. His response: "What I am doing, you experience as kindness and compassion, and I'm glad for that. But I think of it as my duty to you, my brother. On the day you made your solemn profession in the Order, you promised to be faithful to your vows. That same day, we your brothers promised to be faithful to you. This is what it means to be a brother. This is what we do." I hope that you, too, have had the experience of commitment and care that I received from my Franciscan brother.
February 14, 2016
On this First Sunday of Lent, we are invited to look to Jesus for directions in life. After forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert, Jesus was confronted by a number of strong temptations, similar to those we face on a daily basis. First, Jesus was tempted to change stones into bread, to be overly concerned with satisfying his desire for personal comfort. Second, he had to deny the temptation to use power for his own purposes. Third, Jesus was enticed to use his gifts to advance his personal reputation. In response to all of this, Jesus said, "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test" (Dt 6:16 in Lk 4:12b). In other words, Jesus kept his life centered on God and God's plan/mission, and we are to do the same as Jesus' disciples. OUCH! Just the thought of an ember being touched to my lips makes me shudder. I know, I know. This is a vision that Isaiah is describing. He is not reporting it as a physical event. Nonetheless, this image of the six-winged seraph racing full-throttle at Isaiah and then scorching his lips feels "real" enough. I react to it internally in the same way as when I see something painful on TV. I can't help it. The squeamish, like me, could easily tune out at this point and miss the rest of the story. And it's a doozy.