All posts for the month May, 2021

May 30, 2021 at Saint William Church in Naples, FL

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

Saint William Catholic Church in Naples, FL Sunday, May 30, 2021

This day focused on the Trinity brings together all that we have celebrated during the Lenten and Easter season. The creative, saving, and sanctifying world of God not only frees us from the power of sin and death restoring creation to its first and original goodness, binds us together as people of faith and children of God, a church. Think of that when in our tradition we sign ourselves giving witness to our faith and remembering who we are. Let’s do it again with thought this time. We believe in a God who Creates, Saves, and Sanctifies. +.

The God revealed to us is essentially a God of relationships, discovered, experienced, and always adored within the Trinity. The whole saving wonder of Jesus Christ and his ministry was to draw us into the relationship he shares with the Father and the Spirit. It is a relationship that God intended at the beginning, and the only thing we can call it is love. It’s a love that never ceased even when the relationship was broken by self-willed human beings. As the Word of God insists, God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to reveal and Father’s will for us to be holy and blameless. By fulfilling the Father’s will so perfectly, he taught us to let God’s will replace our will. It’s all one unmistakable act of love that finds its perfect fulfillment through their Spirit which they have sent into us. The result is that all of our relationships in love become reflections of that unique and dynamic communion that exists within God. The love of husband and wife, the love of parents for their children: it’s all a reflection of how God loves. 

When near the end of John’s Gospel Jesus speaks and prays about his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, he says that God will take from what is mine and declare it ours, and then, “everything that the Father has is mine” which he gives on to us. You see, there is no yours and mine in God. It is only “ours”. There is no possessiveness.

In the end, my friends, it must be the same with us. This day we hear an invitation to continue moving beyond ourselves. This day we hear an invitation to surrender our will and to embrace a life style that see and knows that we share all good things in Christ. Most human suffering comes from broken relationships. Anger, jealousy, resentment, and feelings of rejection find their source in conflict between people who long for unity, community and a deep sense of belonging. Claiming the Holy Trinity as our home and our destiny, we claim the truth that God gives us what we most desire, grace to forgive each other for not being perfect in love.

It always seems to me that the Trinity is a love story of selfless, outpouring love that holds nothing back, that never says “that’s mine”, but day and day out draws us out of ourselves and roots us deeply in the divine heart that waits with patient love for us to come home empty handed having surrendered everything that keeps us apart from one another.


May 23, 2021 at Mary Mother of Light Maronite Church in Jupiter, FL & Saint Agnes Church in Naples, FL

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

11:00am Pentecost Sunday at Saint Agnes Church in Naples, FL

The secular world in which we now live and struggle to keep our faith alive has already taken over Christmas that now begins immediately after Halloween. It has become little more than a shopping spree for way too many people. Easter is dissolving into a giant Easter Egg Hunt and a day to dress up and look for a church. Any church will do if there’s room. Fortunately, this day, Pentecost, has yet to capture the imagination of the secular world, leaving us to celebrate it without distractions, advertisements, promotions and sales. It is a deeply spiritual day commemorating the most powerful spiritual experience making it difficult to commercialize. It celebrates an event that gives Christmas and Easter a purpose. After all, why would God choose to take on human flesh if it were for just a short while? Why would Christ rise from a tomb and return to the Father except to perfect us and empower us with the very Spirit that draws us into the relationship of the Trinity as children of God?

Those of us in churches today have good news to share for a world that grows weary of division, hatred, and negativity. The news is the saving power of a God who is always with us. This news is of a God whose Spirit impowers us to bring light where there is darkness and hope to people who have given up. That Spirit leads us out of confinement and fear just as those first disciples were led out of that upper room no longer fearful to embrace new possibilities.

Pentecost is not for dour wanna-be saints who are looking for penance and suffering to prove their holiness. Pentecost is for dreamers, passionate explorers who want to live fully and come home empty. The Holy Spirit is Lord and Giver of Life to anyone who believes that God is love, and that Jesus showed us that the way to find your life is to give it up in loving service for others. We are not a people just baptized with water. We are a people baptized in that Spirit. Water cleanses, but Fire transforms. Why just go for the water when you can live your life filled with wind and fire?

Too many still hide in fear or doubt. Too many still plod through life with no hint of joy to excite and inspire others to seek the Lord. Too many are put down, broken, and discouraged by things that happen in this world. We cannot be counted among them and be worthy of the price Jesus paid for our salvation by hanging out in church. We are, because of the Holy Spirit, a people of Joy. We are a people with gifts. We have the wisdom to recognize the importance of others and the importance of keeping God central in our lives. Wisdom allows us to recognize truth. We have the understanding to know the meaning of God’s message. We have the knowledge to think about, explore, and imagine God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, and we can recognize and live with things that are beyond us. We have the gift of Counsel that provides us with the ability to make right judgements and see the best way to follow God’s plan when there are choices. We have the fortitude and courage to do what is right. We have the piety that draws us into true devotion. And, we have Fear of the Lord which is nothing more than amazement and wonder before God whose friendship we do not want to lose.

What we celebrate today is power, God’s power. In an attempt to describe what was happening, Luke speaks of a mighty wind, a violent wind. In other words, a kind of Holy Hurricane that sweeps through and blows away anything that is not rooted and firmly set in a faithful heart. What we celebrate today is also, change, something we often resist because of fear or just plain laziness. But change for faithful people is conversion that comes from recognizing and choose the will of God over our own will. It’s a day to rejoice. It’s a day to celebrate freedom from everything that holds us back from being and living like children of God. It’s a day sing and play, laugh, and pray. It’s a day to remember that no matter what we will never be alone. 

May 16, 2021 at St. Peter the Apostle & St. William Parish in Naples, FL

Acts 1, 1-11 + Psalm 47 + Ephesians 4, 1-13 + Mark 16, 15-20

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

Parents everywhere have been through it. You’ve loaded the car. Luggage is in the back end. There’s a cooler with snacks, and you’re off on road-trip vacation. Within thirty minutes it starts: “Are we there yet”?  “How much longer?” You sit there and wonder how a priest who has no children would know this, but I was in the back seat with my sister. There was more to it than just those two questions. It would go like this: “He touched me.” “She’s sitting on my half of the seat?” And then would come the question again: “How much longer.” At first the answer that came from the front seat would be “Just a little while.” Then about an hour into the ride, with twenty-five repetitions of those questions, there would come a sullen silence from the front and then that look which would turn milk sour.

That question must have been in the minds of the disciples when Jesus says: “In a little while.” What does a “little while mean”? Time for a child goes slowly. Then we get or age, and time is anything but slow. And then you wonder, what does “a little while” mean to God? That phrase is repeated eight times in the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. In a fourteen-billion-year universe, the Rocky Mountains rise in a little while, the Appalachians shrink in a little while, continents shift and shape, stars are born, comets fly by light years away, and it’s just “a little while” to God.

Only Luke gives us any images with which to imagine what happened. John does not even mention the Ascension. He compresses the whole mystery of Jesus Christ, the lifting up on the cross, the tomb, the ascension into heaven, and the return at Pentecost into a little while revealing what a real human being with a divine destiny looks like. Christ among us calls us to be children of God. It is almost beyond our comprehension, but only almost. We might wonder what happened, where did that body go, and what does it mean to be seated at the right of the Father?

The meaning of the Ascension is not found in history. It touches the lives of all believers in every age. This Feast turns our attention away from the earthly life of Jesus to the future and not just that future when he will return in a little while. It turns our attention inward, because there are implications here about our lives here on earth and for our future when we are no longer here, in a little while. Like those disciples we hear of in the first reading, our attention is turned toward the future that is clearer now because we have something to do while we wait that “little while.” We are to continue the work that Jesus began. It is an awesome task, but not one we must do alone. Because with his Spirit, we can do all the things he did and even more he has said to us. 

The Ascension is not the end of anything, but the beginning of everything for us. It gives us an idea with which to imagine our future at the right hand of the Father. It gives us not just something to do as we move into that future, but it defines who we are as children of God. The Ascension of Jesus Christ can also give us the courage to look toward our own death and not be frightened or troubled, because the best kept secret of our faith is that we shall see him, and our grief, our fear, our anxiety will be turned into joy

May 9, 2021 at St. Peter the Apostle & St. William Parish in Naples, FL

Acts 10, 25,26, 34,35, 44-48 + Psalm 98 + 1 John 4, 7-10 + John 15, 9-17

9:00am Sunday at Saint William Church in Naples, FL

At the court of the Roman Emperor there was a select group of men who were called “Friends of the Emperor.” At all time, day and night, they had the right to enter into the presence of the Emperor. No one else had that right, not senators or military commanders. The Emperor consulted “the friends” before he made any public announcements or military decision. The “friends” had the closest and most intimate connection with the Emperor. That was the understanding about “friends” when Jesus applies the term to his disciples. These words were spoken to disciples gathered around the table of the Supper before he died. They are spoken again to us at this Table because when we gather here it is the same sacrifice and same meal. It is not reenactment. It is not an imitation. It is the same meal, the same body and blood we consume just as they did the first time, and the same Jesus speaks the same words to us who are as disciples as those others. He calls us friends. 

As much as we might like to claim our right to choose these days, there is one thing we need to get straight. We have been chosen by God. It is not the other way around. There is no other way to explain the fact that we are here and someone else we know is not. Then in the most simple and direct way, he tells us how to prove that friendship. “This I command you: love one another.”

It is a commandment more difficult and more challenging than all ten of those that Moses was given because there are just some people who are difficult to love. There was someone in one of the parishes I served who comes to mind every time I read these verses of John’s Gospel. For now, I’ll call her, “Rosie.” Somehow, she got my cell phone number, so she knew she could get around the system. She called often asking for groceries. When directed to the parish food pantry, she would remind me that she didn’t have a car asking that someone drive the groceries out her way because she had not had anything to eat for days. Most folks who came to our food pantry took whatever there was in stock. Not Rosie. She had a grocery list: smoked turkey, lean roast beef, and a pound of coffee – decaf. 

A typical Oklahoma winter storm was blowing huge snow drifts. Not wanting to burden anyone else in the parish during the storm, I went to the food pantry, filled several sacks, and drove eight miles through the snow to her place grumbling to myself the whole time. Her place was a mess. No one had shoveled the blowing snow from her drive. I had to leave the car some distance from the door. As I stomped through the snow in my good shoes, the bottom of one of bags broke open. Rosie opened the door with a cigarette in her hand, and oblivious to the snow, she called out: “Why don’t you pull up a little closer? Did you remember the coffee – Decaf? All the way home, I kept mumbling: “Love one another as I have loved you.” And then I would say: “Really?”

And, of course, we know the answer. Yes, really. We are all invited into a relationship with God that is a friendship not fear. Because of that relationship, we all get a Rosie or two in our lives with their demanding neediness both to keep us from acting the same way, and to test really or not we can see the face of Christ who has come to remain with us at all times, all places, and all people.

May 2, 2021 at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL

Acts 9, 26-31 + Psalm 22 + 1 John 3, 18-24 + John 15, 1-8

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

Seven times in John’s Gospel Jesus says: “I am”. There might be a test on this, so pay attention. I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me shall never hunger.  I am the Light of the World. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. I am the Door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though they may die shall live. I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Then, the final one spoken at the last supper: I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Each of these statements can lead us deeper into the identity of Jesus which is exactly what he is doing as he speaks to the apostles and to us today.

The Last Supper is the only place where Jesus uses the image of the vine, but it repeats a theme that echoes throughout the Gospel of John. It is that Jesus “stays” or “remains in” his disciples, and that they “stay” or “remain in” him. For example, when Jesus asks the first disciples what they want, they do not ask him “Where are you going?” But they ask, “Where are you staying?” It is always about the ongoing presence of Jesus within his disciples. It is always the revelation through Jesus Christ that God is with us. God stays. And so, it is always about relationships. Jesus speaks of his relationship with the Father and the Father’s relationship to him, and then he speaks of our relationship to him and with and through him we have a relationship with the Father. In these verses today, Jesus uses an image those apostles could easily understand. They understood the mutual dependence of branches and vines. Each of the I AM statements is an invitation to relationship with him.

When we affirm and remember that relationship, just like the branches that remain on the vine, fruit will flourish. It is up to us. We are the ones who choose to bear fruit or to choke ourselves off from the vine. The vine that nourishes the branches an only do so if we remain on the vine. We have to continually choose who we want to be. We are offered the option of being fruitful branches. The vine, Jesus Christ in his church can only feed us when we choose to stay with the one who stays.

The image of Jesus as the vine with us as branches finishes all the other I AM proclamations. This image goes beyond all that he has said before, and it paints a picture of what he would later pray for: “May all be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.” Our faith and our future rests up on our choice to be one, to be church, to be in Christ and through Christ return to the One who has made us and called us his own. In John’s Gospel, belief in Jesus is not an intellectual exercise. It is the motivator of all our activity. A people who are living like branches on the fine will be a people who do something and are identified not by a name like “Christian” or “Catholic” by what they do out of love, and the fruit will be the peace of God’s Kingdom. We must all be doers of the Word, not just readers or listeners, and that is our choice.