All posts for the month June, 2022

June 26, 2022 at Saint William Catholic Church in Naples, FL

1 Kings 19, 19-21 + Psalm 16 + Galatians 5, 1, 13-18 + Luke 9, 51-62

There is so much in the verses of this Gospel proclaimed throughout the world today. It is almost too much for one Sunday. We could easily take three weeks to reflect on each of these three people who came up to Jesus wanting to be disciples. Relax! I’m not going to do that. Today. Their excuses are all good ones and timely, but they are just that, excuses. Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem. That is the future. There is no looking back, and that comment at the end of this passage is a good thought for all of us who sometimes prefer to look backward rather than to look forward. It is the future that matters, not the past. It is the past that got us to this day, and we are a people and a church moving toward the future, Jerusalem, which for us in the Kingdom of God. Repeating the past does not get us moving, it just leaves us standing in place.

What is said before these wanna-be disciples come up to Jesus is almost more important because it speaks to those who are already disciples, James and John.

Jesus is taking a short-cut through Samaria to get to Jerusalem, and that direct route takes him through enemy territory. The Samaritans are hostile to the Jews, and when they discover a Jew passing through is headed to Jerusalem they go out of their way to be inhospitable and perhaps even violent. John and James are mad about this. They have encountered people who are different. They have encountered a people who believe differently, seem hostile, and are completely at odds with what James, John, and Jesus believe to be true. These two apostles imagine that they have some magical or divine power to destroy, and they want to use it. That’s the way they respond to someone who is different: get rid of them. What they discover, and what this Gospel reminds us of today is that Jesus and his Father are not in the business of obliterating other. That is simply not the way it works with God and with God’s people. Jesus simply tells them to look for a more hospitable spot, and that’s all there is to it.

We could learn a good lesson from this simple event. We can learn from watching Jesus and from watching his disciples. Love cannot be coerced, and so God simply waits. God does not force anyone to faith. God does not punish those who are slow to believe. God just waits because grace works very slowly. As this episode continues, what we see is that all kinds of people are being invited to join Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. One turns him down and he simply invites another. Some follow and some don’t None are perfect, but none are totally lost.

The only thing that frees us to follow Jesus and make it to Jerusalem is love. With it there is no danger or fear, and the lure of the past has no power. While Jesus had no place to lay his head, his followers enjoy many homes. It is a vision of the Kingdom, the New Jerusalem that motivates us to look to Jesus and learn from him. It is a vision of the Kingdom and the New Jerusalem that give us a kind of inner peace, confidence, and hope that allows us to live with others who are different, and wait, like the Father, for all to be one. 

June 19, 2022 at Saint Elizabeth Seton and Saint William Catholic Churches in Naples, FL

Genesis 14, 18-20 + Psalm 110 + 1 Corinthians 11, 23-26 + Luke 9, 11-17

It disturbs me a little that the committee who organized the Sunday Readings stopped the reading at verse 26. It bothers me because what comes in the next three verses is the point of what proceeds. The next verses go like this: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine themselves, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on themselves.”

Those verses are the strongest condemnation in the entire New Testament, and they are not to be taken lightly. In the context of the Sacred Liturgy, a letter written to the Church in Corinth is written as well to the Church of Naples. We are challenged by this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ to gather around this altar as commanded to “Do this in memory of me.” Only Luke and Paul preserve those words, and Paul repeats them twice. We are not here to “get” or “take” communion. We are here to enter into communion with Christ and to become the Body of Christ. We are here to DO something in memory of Christ. Eating and drinking is not the “doing.”

So, we need to be clear about what “this” is, and what “memory” means. Religious Memory is not an intellectual activity. It is a power that allows us to participate in what had formed people in the past. Memory in the experience of religion has the power to bring the past into the present with such force that we feel and are part of the past. And so, there are no observers. When we remember the Last Supper, we are there, at the table. We are not pretending, rehearsing, or re-enacting that meal. It is now as much as it was then. That’s what it means to “remember.”

Once we get that right, we might wonder what Jesus is asking us to do. What is “this”? Well, we can learn from the Corinthians that “this” was certainly not an imitation of words and gestures of Jesus. They seem to have thought, and some may still think, that “this” is the repetition of certain words and gestures. NOT! Says Paul.

When Jesus says: “Do this” he refers to giving himself, to pouring out his life’s blood for the sake of others. He does not refer to a menu, a prayer formula or set of gestures. To take, bless and break bread in Jesus’ name implies the commitment to be in communion with his self-giving and make it our own.

The Gospel today is the only story told six times in the Gospels to make a point. We often wrongly call it the “Multiplication” of loaves, but not one of the six versions say that the quantity of bread increased. They simply tell us that the disciples claimed there was not enough while Jesus asked them to give everything they had. When they did, there was more than enough. Each of those six stories foreshadow the Last Supper repeating the formula that Jesus “took, blessed and broke” to satisfy the needs of the people. He teaches us how to give all we are and all we have just as he did through his life and death. That was, and only that could be enough.

There are no observers at the table of the Eucharist. When we take and eat, we had better be ready to be broken and poured out in service and in love, or we “bring judgement” on ourselves as Paul said. At this table we are invited into communion with Jesus Christ who still lives in and through us, and we commit ourselves to proclaim the death of the Lord by our very lives. Nothing else matters.

June 12, 2022 at Saint William Catholic Church in Naples, FL

Proverbs 8, 22-31 + Psalm 8 + Romans 5, 1-5 + John 16, 12-15

This great holy day draws our attention to The Holy Trinity leading us to wonder and reflect on what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. This day is not an occasion to dig into great theological ideas about three-in-one and one-in-three, or “Undivided Trinity” as the hymn goes. Neither is it a time to study the nature and relationship of Jesus, the one he calls “The Father,” and the Spirit/Advocate he speaks of at the last supper. That’s for classrooms and theological lectures. This is Liturgy. This is a time to praise, to bless, to adore, to glorify and give thanks to God; and we do that best by being who we are as the faithful disciples of Jesus and members of his Church.

This day that comes around every year just after Pentecost exposes our illusion of autonomy and independence.  It mocks the pretensions of everyday life and the whole self-centered idea of precious individuality that spouts a silly litany of my body, my private property, my rights, my needs, my interests. It goes on and on and we hear day in and day out.

The consequence of this shallow thinking begins to suggest that “others” are the problem. So, the ego is constantly being challenged and nagged at by “them”. The philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre said that we do not need the threat of fire and red-hot pokers: “Hell is other people.” Otherness is the enemy.

Yet, “otherness” is at the very beginning. The Trinity is there before creation. In other words, it’s all about relationships, and without relationships, there is nothing. In the beginning was the Word, says the opening line of John’s Gospel, and when the Father speaks that Word and breathes, there is life, and eventually, there we are. This feast and our understanding of the Trinity rests upon our understanding of ourselves as living members of humanity, and in faith, as living members of the Body of Christ. We do not exist alone. We cannot exist, and no one can truly live alone.

The strength of our relationships, the bond we have with each other in trust, in love, and friendship, and in the human family is the biggest part of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God, because, God exists in relationship and what holds that relationship together is love. Which is exactly what holds a family together. When it is broken or missing, lost or forgotten, there is no family, and when there is no love, there is no image of God.

There is an intimacy about all of this, a kind of unspoken and awesome wonder in which the love of God among us conquers all things. That love holds us up, that love is revealed in joy, and that love renews, restores, and recreates what God began on the first day of creation. We celebrate relationships today because of the Trinity. We celebrate all that holds us together, our stories, our woes, our sorrows, and our joys, and most of all, our faith in God is and always will be, Father, Son, and Spirit. It is a good day to be together, and it will get even better if we reach out to and hold on to those we love and to those who love us.


June 5, 2022 at Saint William Catholic Church in Naples, FL

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

 As long as we continue to read, listen to, and proclaim the Gospel as though it is about someone else or that what we read is some kind of historical report, we have no place to go, nothing to do, and for that matter, we have no future, and things in this world, our world will just always be the same. There will simply be anger and division, more losers than winners, a shinking church, and a world divided, suspicious, unjust, and probably violent. As long as anyone of us hears this Gospel proclaimed during the Sacred Liturgy and thinks that Jesus is talking to a group of people hiding in a Jerusalem safe-house, nothing that keeps the Kingdom of God from breaking into our lives will ever change. 

Jesus Christ speaks to each one of us when we are here. We are not just one of a crowd, nameless, faceless numbers. In Luke’s Gospel that fire seperted and settled over each person in that room. the command of his mission is entrusted to every one of us. The fire of Pentecost singles each of us out, gives each of us a face and a name, a value and dignity, a purpose that is truly individual and truly unique.

What we have here is a reenactment of creation. At that moment in Genesis the human vocation was to be stewards of all creation, and nothing has changed that command. Creation is ours to care for and not just the environment which we ought to take more seriously, but other human beings as well. There is no one on this earth beyond our responsibility. At some moment today, and every day, we will be called upon, in our own way, to bring the power of the Holy Spirit to bear upon the task of building up and nurturing the people of God.

We might have a chance to just listen to someone who needs to talk without rolling our eyes, wondering when they will stop, or looking at our watch. We might have the opportunity to thank someone who is always being taken for granted. We might simply be given the chance to laugh and help someone else laugh and make their day more pleasant. A sense of humor is a divine power, and so is a sense of beauty that allows us to be more sensitive not about our own feelings, but toward someone else who is hurt.

Over and above that, the clearest sign that the Holy Spirit is present is courage, and that seems to be in short supply. It was fear that kept those Apostles huddled in that room before Pentecost, and the first effective sign of the Holy Spirit was that they acted in spite of their fear.

A people filled with the Holy Spirit are never silent in the face of wrong doing. They cannot be silent in the face of violence or hatred. They speak the truth because they know the truth. Wisdom and Understanding leads them to know the difference between an opinion, a lie, and the truth, and they will never settle for anything short of the truth.

Two miracles seem to have happened on that first day of Pentecost. The Scriptures do not just say that the Apostles spoke new languages. It says that they were understood. Whenever I think about this, I recall old Father Wade Darnall who was a mentor to me early in my priesthood. He did not speak one word of Spanish, but served a people who did not speak English. They loved him, and they knew that he loved them. There are ways of speaking without words that we sometimes forget about. As we pray today that the Holy Spirit will fill us and renew us, we might well pray again for that gift of understanding that sometimes is more important than the gift of tongues. When we begin to really understand who we are and what we are as God’s people, chosen, and loved, a lot of things will be different, and we might just be closer to the Kingdom of God.