4:30 pm Saturday at St William Catholic Church

July 21, 2024 at Saint William Catholic Church in Naples, FL

Jeremiah 23: 1-6 + Psalm 23 + Ephesians 2: 13-18 + Mark 6: 30-34

I read recently that a leader is a person “who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” This Gospel today could invite us to give some prayerful thoughts about leadership using Mark’s description of Jesus as the model. We could well use Mark’s Jesus as the norm for choosing whose leadership we want to follow when it comes to politics or even entertainment for that matter. When I think about it in the context of this Gospel, I begin to believe that our choice of leaders usually says more about us than about them. It ends up being a matter of what we want or need, so we tend to follow someone who will provide that.

The idea of a leader varies from time to time and place to place. The two-fisted gun-slinging defender of the wronged worked in the old west. A man or woman who makes quick decisions with good command of subordinates works in the business world. A military leader can get others to follow them through all kinds of danger.  Today’s Gospel will delight anyone who thinks popularity is the mark of a leader as those people go chasing around all over the place after Jesus.

Whatever model of leadership it is, to be effective, there must followers, and that’s when the real truth about us gets revealed. The leaders we follow these days reveals just who and what we are. Wanting a life of wealth and celebrity finds us falling in line behind those who can make that promise. Needing affirmation, reassurance, and self-respect leads us to follow someone who will constantly be patting us on the head saying all the nice things we need to hear whether they are true or not. Most of the time, Jesus could look over us and sadly observe that way too often we are sheep without a shepherd.

In Christ Jesus, we have a leader who can lead us but not to wealth and deeper into consumerism if that’s what you want, but to more priceless treasures like compassion, mercy, and reconciliation. The only leader who can take us to pastures of peace and deeper into the life for which we were made is the Word Made Flesh – a God who stays with us, seeks us when we are lost, and puts us in touch with the very reason for which we are on this earth. Christ Jesus is the one who knows the way to the Father, has gone the way, and has shown us the way.

July 14, 2024 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Indianapolis, Indiana

Amos 7: 12-15 + Psalm 85 + Ephesians 1: 3-14 + Mark 6: 7-13

Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union, and a guy from Memphis named Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sister George McGoey was teaching 8th grade at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parochial School, and I was over there in a desk looking out the window at Public School 84. It was 1956. Finally, after 68 years, I find myself standing here where I so often served Mass for Father Sahm. When I look that way or from side to side, everything looks the same, maybe a little smaller. When I look that way nothing is familiar, and I’m glad about that because change is a consistent sign of life. If this place were exactly the way it was in 1956, something would be terribly wrong. We are not here to preserve the past. Yet, it is important to know where you have come from just in case you find yourself there again which means you’re lost. The Kingdom of God is not behind us.

There is great danger in longing for the past. It is easy to sit back in this grand old place built by some of our parents and think that the job is done. The permanence of buildings like this poses a challenge to us all. The permanence of this building allows us to risk thinking that this it, this is the Church. No it isn’t. This place is the starting line. It was for me, and hope it is the same for you. This is the place where the mission begins. This is the place we come to listen for the voice of God. If you’re here, you are chosen. What we learn from this Gospel today is that Jesus does not invite or ask disciples if they will do something. They are sent, commissioned. What they are to do is not optional or a choice they make. It is about who they are, and what they do because of it.

It is obvious to anyone who learns from the Gospel that God is not interested in the best or the perfect. That group of twelve we just heard about were not really good at anything except ambition, confusion, and a remarkable ability to miss the point of nearly everything they heard. I’ve often suspected that some of them were not particularly good at fishing. If they were, they may not have left it all so easily. Nonetheless, they get sent out with all the power found in the name of Jesus Christ to do what he does. That number Mark deliberately gives us is an important detail. Mark says: “Jesus called the Twelve.” For those to whom Mark is writing at first, that number means everyone. They would think of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and know what it means. Everyone!

If there is a reason behind the long delay for the Kingdom of God to be lived and made real, if there is a reason for people to still experience isolation, loneliness, and feel cast out or abandoned, if there is a reason for lingering racism, sexism, or hostility toward those who are different from us, it is because we have not realized the implication of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. There are no spectators among disciples. Action and mission are their identity. They are never heard to say: “Someone should do something about that.” They know who should do something.

We might also note that the mission we are given is not just spiritual. They preach repentance and they heal. Along with the spiritual, there is a social dimension to the mission we are given. Praying for the poor and homeless is fine, but that’s not all there is. Something must be done about it in order to fulfill the command we are given.

We, the Church, are by our very nature missionary. Even though the Church possesses some permanence made obvious by this grand building, we are, nonetheless, always on pilgrimage moving forward without too much baggage, excited about the promise the future holds for this world entrusted to us when we remember who we are.

Ordinary 14

St Peter the Apostle Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

July 7, 2024 At St. Peter the Apostle Churches in Naples, FL

Ezekiel 2: 2-5 + Psalm 123 + 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 + Mark 6: 1-6

They took offence at him and some still do. I was ordained in 1968 by a Bishop who knew that “separate but equal was not.” He integrated the Catholic Schools of the Diocese. He defended priests who were jailed at sit-ins, and who marched over a bridge in Selma. He paid a high price for that. His home was not safe, he was rudely shouted at and picketers marched everywhere he went for months. He was attacked in fake Catholic publications, and I think he died of a broken heart. These days, some take offence at our Holy Father. They twist his words and meaning, they call for his resignation, they defy his authority to lead, to teach, and the call us to holiness.

This whole irrational thinking gets put before us today with an opportunity to grow, to learn, to listen, and to wonder why it is easier to be negative than positive, to look for the flaws and sins of others. That crowd in Nazareth took offense for two reasons. He was a mere worker who fixed doors and windows, built houses and made plows. What could he possibly know about anything other than saws, hammers and wood? Then they took offence because they knew Mary, his mother. It may well have been an insult, a way of calling him illegitimate. 

Whatever, they made a bad choice that day because it’s always easier to be negative than positive, or be destructive rather than creative. Just what was so offensive about Jesus, about Bishop Reed, a kind and gracious gentleman? What is so offensive about a Bishop from Argentina called by the Holy Spirit who suggests that we should not judge and reminds us that the Church should be like the Kingdom of God, a refuge for sinners, and place of hope for the lost.

A young anonymous student, a young poet proposed a way to avoid and rise above those who choose evil rather than good. He said:

I will do more than belong. I will participate.

I will do more than care, I will help

I will do more than believe. I will practice.

I will do more than be fair. I will be kind.

I will do more than live. I will grow.

I will do more than be friendly. I will be a friend.

We are called by our faith to participate in building the Kingdom and help those who show us the way. We are called to practice faith, not just mouth the words, and it means much more than going to Mass. We are reminded that kindness surpasses fairness, and that being a friend is better than just being nice, and that the only way to be alive is to grow.There is nothing kind or friendly in negative and destructive people. There is nothing Godly about them at all. They are hardly even alive because they resist a prophetic call to grow, to change, to listen to the Word of God who was then and still is in our midst. Every one of us in this place is called to be God’s prophet, and the healing, forgiving, merciful Gospel must be preached until the end of time, even to those who are unwilling to listen.

St Peter the Apostle 3:30 pm Saturday

June 30, 2024 at Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL

Wisdom 1 13-15, 2: 23-24 + Psalm 30 + 2 Corinthians 8: 7, 9, 13-15 + Mark 5: 21-43

We began this Mass listening to the book of Wisdom. Just in case you had not settled down enough to focus, let me refresh your memory: “God did not make death. God does not rejoice in the destruction of the living.” God is the author of life. Death, ancient wisdom says, is the work of the devil and people who choose the devil’s way. To me, that is just another way of suggesting that we have more to fear from spiritual death than from biological death. 

I’ve run into a lot of people in this life and I’ll bet you have too who are the walking dead. They have no life even though they are breathing, eating, and working. Because, real life is way more than biological life. It is a kind of fullness, a way of being that comes from intimacy with God. In people who are really alive, there is a kind of divine spark. They really know how to live, and I don’t mean “live it up.” We have all found comfort in the face of someone’s death whose life was full, profoundly rich in friendship, in service, love, and compassion.

When we hear the two stories of today’s Gospel, it is tempting to focus on this Synagogue leader who is so different from the other leaders who will have nothing to do with Jesus. Or, to sympathize with that woman who has suffered for so long and spent all that she had. With nothing to lose, she has one last chance. But, there is another option for us to focus on, and that is the crowd that Jesus sends away. Unlike the Jairus or the woman with no name, they are spiritually dead. Their level of faith is insufficient to face the challenge of death. So, they are dismissed. The contrast between Jairus and his wife against the that crowd is important to see. They hold on to the love of God that makes all things possible. That mourning and wailing comes from people who are afraid. They are overcome by the reality of death, and Jesus puts them out. Jesus does not bring the girl back to life. He awakens her. He takes her hand and with tender words draws her into intimacy with God as he calls her “daughter.”

Think about this too. Blood for us in this holy place is very important and very sacred. From that cup of blood, we have real life, not physical life, but spiritual life. A writer I once studied said: “God owns blood.” So, God’s love stopped the flow of blood in that woman and restored the flow of blood in the twelve-year-old girl. We would all do well, to think of this as we approach this altar to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.

“Do not be afraid. Have faith” Jesus says to all of us who must face physical death. There is something far worse than that. It is living with fear rather than with faith. As the Book of Wisdom says today, “God formed us to be imperishable, in the image of his own nature.” 

We come into this church sometimes like sleepwalkers and always as sinners. This place holds the promise of life for all of us. If there is any place where folks are equal, where the poverty that so many face each day is banished, and where power means nothing at all, it is here around this altar where we taste the banquet of heaven. We stand here together as witnesses to the power of faith in Jesus Christ. It might be a good thing to make a little noise about that now and then in contrast to that noisy crowd who ridiculed Jesus. Maybe we could make enough noise with our laughter and our joy to wake up the walking dead and make them wonder how it is we can live so full of love, so full of peace, and so full hope.

4:40 pm Saturday at Saint William Parish in Naples, FL

June 23, 2024 at Saint Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL

Job 38: 1, 8-11 + Psalm 107 + 2 Corinthians 5: 14017 + Mark 4: 35-41

Through the whole Gospel of Mark, Jesus reveals by action and word the power of God and the will of God to save and gather us together. With today’s passage from the fourth chapter Mark wants us to see the power of God over nature. In the next chapter, we will see God’s power over evil as demons and diseases are cast out, and then over death as Jesus raises a synagogue official’s daughter who dies.

It all begins with a boat scene. There are many of them in Mark’s Gospel. He tells us it is getting dark, and immediately we ought to sense that this is not good. Evil lurks when it is night or dark in the Gospels. Then there is an odd little note at the beginning when Mark tells us that they took him “just as he was.” He was teaching, so this will be a continuation of his teaching. But now, Jesus is alone with his disciples away from the Jewish crowds on one shore and the Gentile crowds on the other. With this story and message then, Jesus is directly ministering to or teaching the church, teaching us just as much as that early church for which Mark is writing. Jesus is calming a storm/devil. This
storm” is not about a meteorological event. There were no storm warnings or alerts. The point of his teaching is faith and fear. They don’t fit together.

So, this story is about a crossing, but not from one side of a lake to the other. It is about crossing from fear to faith. These are code words for Mark, “fear” and “faith.” They are a dynamic challenge for disciples even to this day. Are we going to be afraid, or are we going to have faith? Which is going to be?

As Mark tells is, there is no resolution to this story. “Rebuke” is the verb Mark uses as Jesus speaks. It is the same word used to describe the casting out of evil spirits suggesting that it is an evil spirit that threatens them from continuing their mission.

My friends, we ought to keep this story in mind when the storm/devil disrupts the ordinary lives we often enjoy. It happens all the time, and wise is the disciple who knows how to calm fear with faith, and remember that fear, anxiety, and the unexpected are always the work of the evil one. Disciples of Jesus through the ages have faced persecution, natural disasters, or personal struggles.

The message is simple yet profound telling us that nothing can truly harm those who trust in the Lord. At the same time, it must awaken our drowsy faith in God’s presence. The most repeated demand in the Scriptures is “Do not fear.” Refusing to be afraid disables the evil one always trying to dissuade us from our mission. When we have no fear, the enemy will tremble in fear.

June 16, 2024 at Saint Leo the Great Church in Bonita Springs, FL

Ezekiel 17 22-24 + Psalm 92 + 2 Corinthians 5: 6-10 + Mark 4 26-34

We hear Jesus speaking today about the Kingdom of God. Now, thinking about the Kingdom of God as if it were a place takes us nowhere leaving us unable to hear the parables he uses to speak to us today. It if were a place, how could he ever say: “The Kingdom of God is at hand?” Once we get over that thinking, we can we can begin to understand the work of Jesus and what he says to us today in these parables. That work is to awaken us to the truth that the Kingdom of God is found in the hearts and lives of all who are committed to faithful obedience to God with lives of love, peace, justice, and mercy.

To disciples long ago who felt discouraged by the opposition and apathy they encountered Jesus speaks these parables. To that early church community that may have thought the Kingdom of God was going to break into reality at any minute, Jesus peaks these parables.

Just as then, so now today, these are words are welcome to anyone tempted to give up and give in to growing impatient with this world and those who will follow after us. We have to remember that this Kingdom of God is not some fairytale place of castles and royal courts. It is a life style set on love and mercy rather than geography. So, Jesus uses images from this earth to stir up hope reminding us that once the seed is planted what is required of us patience and a willingness to wait. We cannot make the seed grow. We can only prepare the soil, and then let God do what only God can do, bring life.

The parable serves as encouragement for those who think their efforts for the Kingdom are fruitless, and a warning for those who think they can bring about the Kingdom by their own projects and programs. The Kingdom is God’s work, not a human achievement. God brings about the growth, which sometimes is hard to see. We cooperate, but we cannot control or hasten the arrival of the harvest any more than a farmer can harvest grain in January. Farming and gardening require two things: patience and trust.

It may seem sometimes that the whole world is in the grip of tyrants and thugs, bombers and terrorists, that there is no honor in our civic leaders, that consumerism is consuming us, and that hospitality and plain decency are things of the past. To all of that, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is among us, and it is growing night and day imperceptibly. Just because we don’t see it does not mean it is not happening. If you listen to Jesus, there is a note of triumph in what he has to say about God’s reign because the Kingdom is the eternal plan of God, a gift of God, and a matter of destiny.

We must never think that one life is not enough and that a little bit makes no difference. The parable of a tiny mustard seed says that it does. In voting, in speaking up, in a small kindness or a smile, there are always results. Hear these parables as a summons to hope. They reject despair. They call us all to renew to renew our commitment to mercy, justice, and peace in our neighborhoods, this parish, and our families.

June 9, 2024 This Homily was not delivered at Mass as I am out of the country

Genesis 3: 9-15 + Psalm 130 + 2 Corinthians 4: 13-5: 1 + Mark 3: 20-35

In Mark’s clever style, without getting into the dialogue of these verses, we might pay attention to the way he sets the scene because that is as important as the dialogue. Notice that there are three groups of people in this passage. There are two groups outside who should probably be inside. His family is outside, and I think it’s odd that they are not inside close to him. Somehow, they do not seem able to listen to him either because they are afraid of what others will think about their family or because they are jealous that someone from the family gets more attention than they do. Outside with them are those scribes from headquarters, experts in the Scriptures. Instead of being inside engaged in a conversation with Jesus, they are outside fussing over what they heard others were saying that Jesus said. In the meantime, there is that crowd inside sitting with Jesus, listening for God’s will so attentive that they missed lunch because Mark tells us that it was impossible for them even to eat.

Sometimes with the Gospels it is not always the words that speak to us. In this case, these details give us more than enough to ponder as we are left to think about to which group we belong. If we are inside, I wonder if we would be attentive enough and take Jesus seriously enough to even skip a meal, a golf game, or a long nap. The point is, we need to be inside if we are ever going to hear Jesus and listen for God’s will. If we are outside, we might just be there because we are embarrassed or uncomfortable because we know Jesus and are worried about what others may think or say about us if we go inside. There is also that other group picking at and pushing back because someone is asking them to change or give another thought to what they do, believe, and how they act.

As I think more about this scene, it begins to feel like a description of our own times, and why not? The Gospel is timeless. Mark tells us that Jesus is in his home. For now, and for us, that’s the church. There are lots of reasons to be outside. None of them good. There is also a challenge to those who are inside to pay attention – a lot of attention, always in an effort to understand and fulfill the Father’s will.

June 2, 2024 at Saint Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL

St Peter the Apostle 8:00 a.m.

Exodus 24: 3-8 + Psalm 116 + Hebrews 9: 11-15 + Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26

A few weeks ago, I was browsing the Sunday Bulletin of another parish and an announcement caught my eye and disturbed me a bit. There was a picture of a monstrance with the words: “Come and spend some time with Jesus.” Now, I’m sure that the person who typed that invitation meant well, but that person has revealed a big problem for us as a Church. This Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is exactly what it says. It is not the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus. When you come forward to receive Holy Communion, you hear the words: “The Body and Blood of Christ.” You do hear someone say; “The Body of Jesus.” If you do, walk away. Something has gone very wrong.

A week or so later, I was online checking something from another parish website, and on the right side of the screen there was that side-bar listing various other sites. I glanced at them, and there was a site announcing that a monstrance was being live-streamed. What in the world is this all about, I am beginning to wonder? You cannot stream the Body and Blood of Christ. Why would anyone sit in front of a computer screen and stare at a monstrance sitting in front of a camera five hundred or some miles away? Something has gone wrong.

I believe that this Feast that is celebrated every year two weekends after Pentecost is badly needed to help us refocus the center of our faith. The sacred, consecrated bread, is not a thing. It is a person. It is someone. It may seem to some like a minor point, but it is not Jesus. It is the Christ living now, not the Jesus of the historical past, but the risen one, the Son of God. There is a difference, and we may not ignore it or brush it aside. To do so minimizes the Death, Burial, and Resurrection. It is far more than Jesus. This is Christ who is now risen in glory, and we need to say that.  It is an act of faith in the Rison One. We need to clean up our language. As long as we keep thinking that the Body and Blood of Christ is a “thing”, we are going to fail to realize what has been given to us. It is not a thing. It is communion in the very life of God. This is a profound relationship through which we too are consecrated, made holy and precious in the sight of God.

As it was with the Holy Trinity last week, so it is with this feast. It is a feast of love. Complicated theological expressions sometimes obscure what the Holy Eucharist is as an expression of God’s love for us. It is the ultimate act of self-giving that asks nothing in return, nothing! As Jesus returned to the Father, the Word made flesh remains gathering us together, uniting us in communion, and week by week drawing us deeper into divine life for all eternity.

The Body and Blood of Christ is more about the future than the past. It is about what we are becoming. It is about relationships. Even when we sit quietly in front of a Consecrated host during a holy hour or adoration, we sit together. In drawing us into the presence of Christ, God draws us together as a church, as God’s people, to become holy and blameless in his sight. God does not give us something. God gives us divine life just as he gave divine life to his Son, Jesus raised from dead and united with him forever. So, it shall be for us when we say, “Amen.”

8:00 a.m. St Peter the Apostle

May 26, 2024 at Saint Peter & Saint William Churches in Naples, FL

Deuteronomy 4: 32-34, 39-40 + Psalm 33 + Romans 8: 14-17 + Matthew 28: 16-20

Back in the day, Sister used to tell us in class that the Holy Trinity was a mystery which, I think now, was her way of telling children to stop asking questions. That idea worked for a while mostly because it was time for recess. But a mystery is not something you can’t understand. It is a kind of teasing challenge to keep going until the end. You know how a good mystery novel or movie works. Little clues get dropped along the way to keep you going, and then at the end there is either a surprise because you got it wrong or satisfaction that you figured it out.

In my case, I’m still working with the clues and hope that I will be surprised at the end. Someone like Thomas Aquinas in the past or Bishop Baron, if you are one of his fans, are very satisfied having figured it all out. I think we have the Feast of the Holy Trinity every year just after Pentecost to keep us going. The clues I’m working with come, not from this Gospel and the instructions on how to baptize, but from the opening verses of John’s Gospel which says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Then a few verses later he says: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” 

At this point, I get the clue. From the beginning, if there ever was one, there are two, God and the Word. John tells us that they are one. The Word was God. That One God in the person of the Word became flesh and lived among us for one reason. When we examine all he said and did, the reason for the Word to become flesh was love, which is the only way to describe the relationship between God and Word. Love is what makes them one and keeps them from breaking apart.

Anyone who has known love knows very well that real love needs and desires unity. When you love someone, you can’t stand to be apart.  Where there is love, there unity and peace. 

That love looks upon us, broken and distant, far from the divine life-giver, and it drives God to send out the Word, God’s only Son, to gather us all up together and restore the unity that love demands. “He so loved the world,” John tells us, “that he sent his only Son.” Why? Because, love can’t stand to be apart.

I find another clue from the very first words of John’s Gospel. “In the beginning.” John is reminding us how God’s love work – what it does. It creates, it generates, it brings life just like two people in love generate and participate in God’s creative love giving birth to a child. The Book of Genesis, the Book of the Beginning tells us that God’s very breath brought forth life. 

I once heard Bishop Sheen, that great evangelist, describe the Holy Spirit as the “Sigh” of love. That great breath that so often expresses the joy and peace of love. With that breath, that sigh of love, the Word, the Son, gathers us up in the Spirit to return to God, the father. Once we know and believe that God is love, then there must be a lover, the beloved Son. What we call the Holy Spirit is the love they share.

May 19, 2024 at St Peter and Saint William Catholic Churches s in Naples, FL

Acts 2: 1-11 + Psalm 104 + Galatians 5: 16-25 + John 20: 19-23

 We need to quit thinking that this Gospel is an historical account of something happened a long time ago to a group of people hiding in room our of fear. The truth is, Jesus just spoke to us saying once again, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He just said that to us, and there is no way to look around and think he is talking about someone else or to just those apostles. There is not much difference between us and them. We are hardly more bold or faithful than they were. We are just as timid and fearful as they were. We have been too silent too often when we shold have stood up and said something when something wrong or violent is happening. During that trial, when Pilate asked the crowd who to release, they could have shouted out “Jesus”, and perhaps if they had things might have been different. 

They feared for their lives, and it is understandable. It had been a terrible week. They saw their leader brutally murdered while they were absent when he needed them the most. They had all kinds of regrets, and they needed one another not unlike times when things go wrong for us and we need one another.

We are a people in need of the Spirit just as much as they did, maybe even more. The Joy they felt in the presence of the risen Christ is sometimes missing in our lives and in our churches. Yet, he is just as present here as was to them but somehow there is not much evidence of joy over being here. It has become just something we do because we always have or because we think it will keep us out of hell. 

We need that Holy Spirit to lift us up out of the routines of life that leave us weary, troubled, and sometimes fearful about all that is going on around us. 

The power of the Holy Spirit is in the hands of those who choose to love, forgive, and share the peace that comes from above. The power of the Holy Spirit is in our hands to heal what is broken and bind us all in the unity of faith, and hope. This fragmented and polarized world needs the Holy Spirit that is too often ignored and sometimes avoided. Where ever there is division there is no Spirit because the Holy Spirit unites, and division is everywhere these days. Even our church strains to hold itself together resisting change and growth with fragments here and there wanting things the “old way” as though it was better, resisting new ideas and teachings that call us to embrace those who have been pushed aside.

I suspect that some who profit by division and polarization would have grabbed fire extinguishers in that upper room. To make all things new, we have been given the authority to forgive which is the only way to start over. It is time to show our gratitude for the gifts of the Spirit by not hiding them, but by using them to respond to the command he has given us. We are sent, my friends, no less than those once locked in that room, and we know what we are sent to do.

We have different gifts, but the same Spirit. With that Spirit, we can face the culture around us that has exalted self-interest and reduced men and women to pawns of ideology. In many ways we are still a pre-Pentecost church, huddled in fear of each other as well as of the world at large. We long still for that lover of the poor, the kind and gentle giver of gifts, who walks with us through sadness and sorrow. Yet, he is here still living among us and within us, and all that he has been we can be when we let that Spirit set us on fire with hope, with joy, and courage.