All posts for the month May, 2020


May 31, 2020 at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL

Acts 2, 1-11 + Psalm 104 + 1 Corinthians 12,3-7, 12-13 + John 20, 19-23

Saturday 3:30pm St. Peter the Apostle

The image of the apostles in that room staying there out of uncertainty and fear could easily describe most of us for the past four months. Obviously if Thomas was missing once, they did go out, but perhaps only for food, or perhaps to help the poor. Having promised them that he would send “The Spirit”, Jesus was gone, and I wonder sometimes if they had any idea what the promise meant, or what they were actually waiting for. I honestly believe that if they had been given a choice between keeping Jesus with them or receiving this “Spirit”, they would have elected to keep Jesus. I dare say, if most Catholics were offered a chance to have Jesus present today or having the Spirit, they would choose Jesus. When you stop to really think about it, five minutes with Jesus is something most people would go for, skip the Spirit. But, we really did not get a choice no matter how much any of us would like to have Jesus here again.

What we must awaken to on this glorious feast of Pentecost is the fact that too often too many of us fail to recognize what the Holy Spirit does in our lives, and perhaps more seriously we fail to pray and then fail to acknowledge the work of and the gifts of what Jesus has sent as his last and perfect gift, that Holy Spirit. All of us, when in great need or crises turn to Jesus, some to his mother, some to a favorite patron saint, but I suspect after looking at my own behavior, that not many of us turn to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Maybe we should do something about that.

So many wonderful things happen in our lives by the grace of the Spirit. Compassion, generosity, hospitality, creativity are unmistakable signs that the Holy Spirit is at work within us. The feelings of loneliness and isolation we have all felt this spring are clear signs that the Holy Spirit has called us together, to be one people, one church, one family. I don’t know about you, but my prayer in the last two months has been a prayer to the Holy Spirit to inspire and lead scientists to free us from this contagion. I have prayed to the Holy Spirit to continue to give courage and strength to those working to ease the suffering and save lives of the sick. The wonder and the gift of the Spirit can make us realize that despite our diversity and different social or ethnic identities, we are all one on this earth; one in a humanity that has been touched by divinity. We need to learn how to recognize the Spirit in our lives. Every time we experience love, we experience the Spirit. The trusting and innocent love of children is a sign of the Spirit. People who risk their lives to care for the sick are filled with the Spirit. Those who dedicate their lives to justice and peace or protecting this sacred earth are impelled by the Spirit.

No matter how close we manage to get to Jesus, he will always be external, outside of us. But, with the Holy Spirit, there is something divine inside of us. It is the Spirit that makes us Jesus, makes us the Body of Christ. It’s a good trade off. It is the Spirit that gives us life and fills us with love. It is not enough for us to be with Jesus; we must become Jesus, and that only happens by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This holy day helps us focus on what really binds us together as a gifted people. This is more than a liturgical feast; it is an invitation to way of life, and it is the only way to salvation.

May 24, 2020 at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL

Acts 1, 1-11 + Psalm 47 + Ephesians 1, 17-23 + Matthew 28, 16-20

It is impossible to understand and enter into this day’s Celebration without reflecting upon the Incarnation. What began on the twenty-fifth of December ends today. This concludes the revelation that God initiated by sending of his Son to be born among us. For too much of my life, and probably yours as well, we have been left with images of the Ascension by various artists too influenced by Old Testament writers describing the departure of various prophets. I can still see in my mind, two feet hanging out of cloud. With that, at some point in my life, I stopped wondering about this and just left it be. More recently, I have decided that perhaps the best physical image we could have for this day is an empty crib, because what started there is now complete, and something more and greater has begun.

That old image still stuck in my mind suggests that Christ left us which is not true, because Christ is present to us now in a different and probably much better way. Thinking that Christ left would be bad news. But we don’t celebrate bad news. We are celebrating good news that for the first time something truly human, something out of our own history was taken up into God. This is an affirmation, a validation of our humanity. It means that all that is human is destined for life in God. In Christ we believe that God has entered human history. In his resurrection and ascension, he has taken the human into heaven, lifted the mortal into immortality. Has carried our humanity into God. This means that we matter, that what happens to the least of us matters. Human history is destined for something beyond itself.

The reality of this truth is what always disturbs me when I hear people excuse their failings or sins by saying: “I’m only human.” Wait a minute! If we have really found ourselves in Christ, if we have been baptized into Christ, being human means to be Christ-like. His Incarnation has changed what it means to be human. Human life has been divinized. If that is true, then sinfulness is not human – it is to act in a way that is inhuman, less than human.

         There is reason to believe these days that we are living in a “Post-Christian” era. There is evidence everywhere that this is true. Given what Christ commanded at his Ascension, we are living in the Apostolic time. If our society and culture fail to be “Christian” it might be because we have failed to be Apostolic. The failure to give witness to humanity transformed, to live as a people who are born into and fed on the very Body and Blood of Christ is what allows the memory, the teaching, the values, and a vision of God’s Kingdom to fade away and be ignored and dismissed by so many.

         This blessed day, the day of the Ascension, reminds and affirms who we are in the sight of God, and what we have been created to become. Our Catholic faith is not a philosophy, a collection of dogmas, or a system of worship. We shall understand the good news and be saved by it when we begin to live as if death has been overcome. We will know Christ in us by allowing his grace to move us in forgiving, patient, loving service to others. Then we shall finally experience living in a real apostolic community in the making.

Easter 6

May 17, 2020 10:00am St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL

Acts of the Apostles 8, 5-8, 14-17 + Psalm 66 + 1 Peter 3, 15-18 +

John 14, 15-21

10:00am Mass St Peter the Apostle Church in Naples,FL

We are back at the table of the Last Supper today, and the mood these is not exactly festive. The disciples are not comfortable with what they hear and understand. Not many of us like changes, especially those we have not chosen or have some control over. They are about to enter into a time of instability and uncertainty. They do not want to let go of what they have. It’s been good feeling like someone important moving around with Jesus, enjoying the limelight and attention. They are the “in” group. The people “in the know”. They even sometimes have power to act like the gate-keepers who can grant or deny access to the Rabbi. What he is telling them over that meal shakes up the vision of the future, and they are not so sure it’s going to be good.

Telling them that they will not feel like orphans even though they would feel abandoned is not particularly comforting. He knew that what was coming would cause them to question everything, everything about who they were and if they could make it without him. Every one of us has had those feelings of abandonment from time to time wondering if God is really there, if God is really caring for us, protecting us, and waiting for us. It’s not hard to understand the Twelve around that table. And so, we have to do more than just sympathize with them. We have to see how it all worked out, what it meant, and what became of them. It might give us some reason to expect that it might happen to us as well. The promise he made to them is a promise made to us as well, a promise renewed and strengthened when we gather around this table.

            This entire passage is well crafted challenge for us to see and experience the difference between being “in” and being “with”.  Listen again to what he says speaking of the Holy Spirit, “But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.” Which is better, we might ask, as I’m sure the disciples were wondering at first. Then he says: “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” There is no “with” here.  What is offered to us is the very relationship with the Father that Jesus has enjoyed, and we are left to think perhaps, that being “in” is better than being “with.” It’s all part of that intimacy of John’s Gospel, and the kind of intimate relationship Jesus has come to establish between God and God’s creation.

         The invitation here is to a new level of union with the Father through the Father’s Son. An invitation that leads us straight to this altar because it was at the Table of the Last Supper where these words of promise and invitation were spoken. This is the end of all separation and the final complete act on the part of Jesus completing his mission on this earth. We can be one with God when Christ is within us. This indwelling comes when we freely choose to accept the invitation to union and desire to live out of the energy we call grace. Our union with Christ will empower us to accomplish what he has done, and more besides, as he said in verses just before today’s reading began. “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.”

         As I was reflecting on these extraordinary and powerful verses of John’s Gospel, a great old hymn kept running through my mind. It comes from an old Gaelic poem called “St. Patrick’s Lorica.” (A “lorica” was a mystical garment that was supposed to protect the wearer from danger, illness, and guarantee entry into Heaven.) It is a musical masterpiece in my opinion. It speaks of binding unto myself the strong name of the Trinity. The verses are many invoking the Trinity, the events of Christ’s life, Virtues, aspects of God, and everything from which we might need protection, and the final verse sings out: “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet and in danger, Christ in the hearts of all that love me, Christ in the mouth of friends and stranger.

         Let it be so for us who have passed through the most unique and somewhat frighten Easter Season ever. Yet, Christ is within us, and Christ is before us. The strange way we have communicated these past many weeks leads me to suggest that in conclusion to this homily, you might listen to this great old hymn and take comfort and courage from its bold claim that expresses the promise Christ has made to us.

Easter 5

May 10, 2020 During the Pandemic Isolation

Acts of the Apostles 6, 1-7 + Psalm 33 + 1 Peter 2, 4-9 + John 14, 1-12

3:30pm at Saint Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL

Saturday 3:30pm St Peter the Apostle Naples, FL

We are nearing the end of the Easter Season, and John’s Gospel has been our guide into this profound experience of the Resurrection as we have celebrated it like never before, away from our church, distanced from those who pray and worship with us faithfully week after week. John’s Gospel gives us a different Jesus than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In some ways, they try to dazzle us with persuasive miracles, but John has no miracles, only “signs”, that are more symbolic than physical. John makes no effort to inspire hero worship. John gives us intimacy and the tenderness of love.

            The relationships that Jesus talks of at the Last Supper are John’s substitute for what the other Gospel writers call the “Kingdom of God.” John wants to avoid any thought or confusion that might suggest an institution or structure. The Jesus of John’s Gospel offers a WAY of life made up of an ever-expanding web of relationships that binds us together with and in God which is exactly what we are as a Church and the People of God. Our faithfulness, care, and love for each other almost without our knowing it, binds us to God for we express and reveal God’s love as we love one another.

What Jesus offers is not a life free of suffering, not a life free of worry and trouble, not a life of ease and privilege either. He offers us a “way” a “way of life”, a way of facing suffering, a way of confronting fear, a way to handle worry, and always a way of being together in this world as we are right now even though physically separated. It is way of being in communion and a way of being in God’s world and at home with ourselves and everything in creation.

            Throughout these long days of confinement many have found it difficult to be alone. I suspect that for some, this is evidence that they are not comfortable with themselves. The need to keep busy, run around and shop and be entertained every day is very inadequate way of hiding or denying the truth that we are good, we are loved, and we are special in God’s sight. We are nearing the end of a season that has invited us to reflect upon the love of God for us, an extraordinary love that moved God to send his only Son to reveal and restore the goodness with which we were created. This love is not given to make us feel special, privileged, or exceptional. It is a love given to us for life, a love that awakens us to the needs of others and empowers us to care for them.

            What we proclaim today are the parting words of Jesus Christ. “Do not let your hearts be troubled” is a wonderful sentiment, but we have to realize that they don’t mean much to young couple with three little children who can’t buy groceries by their relationship with God. A widow can’t rely on her piety and prayers to provide the long-term care she needs. There is a mission that comes to us with these words. “Trust in God and trust in me” is what we hear today. It is a reminder about the ultimate victory of love. A love that turns us toward each other in compassion, commitment, service and hope. What we do is always the first expression of what we genuinely believe. Today we hear the astounding promise made to that young family and that widow, a promise that becomes for us a command. Love one another. Telling that young couple or that widow not to be afraid is useless. We are the ones who need to hear and believe that there should be no fear in us; no fear that we don’t have enough, no fear that we can’t do what is needed to bring Justice and Peace to this world, no fear or worry that we shall fail, because, with God all things are possible. The only reason that couple or that widow have to set aside their fears, is God’s promise made real in our relationship with them. They could be without fear because of us, because we know the way, and because we know the truth about who we are and what we are called to become.

Easter 4

May 3, 2020 During the Pandemic Isolation St. Peter the Apostle Naples,FL

Acts of the Apostles 2, 36-42 + Psalm 23 + 1 Peter 2, 20-25 + John 10, 1-10

We are teased by the Word of God to wonder what is it that attracted people to these Apostles and to Peter in the first place. We might even take a step further back to wonder or ask what attracted those apostles to Jesus causing them to leave the security of their homes and jobs and follow this man about whom they seem to have known nothing. These apostles we read about today were not teaching dogma or giving catechism lessons. They were, to use the language of this season, contagious with joy and grace. They found themselves in a relationship with a real person whose life drew them into the very life of God. The consequence of that relationship was “metanoia”. That is the word Peter used, and it is a powerful Greek word that means revolutionizing your way of thinking, acting, and being.

There is something absolutely revolutionary about our faith when it is rooted in a relationship with the risen Christ, and I want to make clear that I’m speaking about “The Risen Christ”, the “Corner Stone rejected by the Builders.” A sentimental attraction to the historical Jesus of Nazareth might be nice and sometimes comforting, but that is not where our faith rests. Our sense of and our relationship is not with some nice looking white-man with flowing auburn hair with a lamb resting on his shoulders. That image has to take you to an agonizing moment in an olive garden, a betrayal, a flogging, abandonment, and a crucifixion before he has anything to offer. What that Christ offers is Hope. Our faith must spring from Christ risen in glory. This is a Christ who still bore the wounds of his death. It is the Christ who is there one minute and gone the next. It is the Christ who can be mistaken for a gardener or a companion on a journey. When Christian faith is a relationship with Christ, it is no philosophy of life or some moral code that encourages people to be nice. When Jesus speaks of himself as a gate, he is giving us, his disciples a most important insight into his relationship with the one he calls his “father.” In some ways, I think it is a privileged insight that we Christians receive. It is a gift that leaves me wondering how others who do not know Christ find their way home. I’m sure they do, but I suspect it might be a lot more difficult.

What the living Word of God says to us today is that the only way to the Father is through Jesus Christ, the gate, which means that our salvation comes from and in our relationship to the Son of God which begins at our Baptism and is sustained within Christ whose life is accessible to us at this altar in this assembly. He proclaims in the clearest terms possible that abundant life is gained through Christ alone. That “abundant” life does not mean lots of it, or a long life. It means very life of God is ours to live when we have put on Christ in whom we have been Baptized. What we find and have offered to us is not available any place else.

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we are invited to allow the resurrection of Jesus Christ to make a real difference in who we are, not just what we think or do. We who grew up surrounded by Catholicism’s saints and angels probably think of the Resurrection as the promise of eternal life: “If I should die before I wake” many of us were taught to say every night. Peter would call that hopeful insurance, but that falls short of Christian life. He would say, “When you catch on, you get caught up. Nothing is the same, and there’s nothing to fear.”