All posts for the month May, 2023


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

May 28, 2023 (This weekend I serve at the Maronite Parish in Tequesta, Fl)

We like to think that there was something miraculous going on with the Pentecost story that Luke gives us in the first reading today. Thinking that way is to forget that the Sacred Scriptures are not recording history. To get all curious or excited about how those apostles were able to speak in different tongues is a silly distraction. To think that this is some kind of miracle is to miss the real miracle being described here. The real miracle here is that of a bunch of cowardly, frightened men hiding out in a locked room suddenly had the courage to come out, and not just peek out, but burst out on fire with news that God has raised up a crucified man and made him Lord and Messiah.

What ought to leave us stunned is what happens when the Holy Spirit enters into cautious, timid, and not too courageous people whose faith gets shaken by tragedy and whose expectations get crushed by the reality of power abused and sinful ambition.

What ought to leave us stunned is what happens when that risen Messiah suddenly stands in that locked up room, and with a breath drives out fear and sadness restoring all creation to peace.

What ought to leave us stunned is how little of that peace has blown around this world, and how few people seem to have enough fire and courage to do anything about it. 

The stories we preserve in our tradition and tell on this day can still unleash that creative breath. The power of God’s Word can still fill us with Joy and open up minds and hearts that are locked up by a narrow and privileged ways of thinking. In this day and age, when no part of the world is unreachable and every language can be translated in an instant, it is time to appreciate the unavoidable and blessed awareness that we are all part of one another and can no longer think in terms of them or those. It’s only “us.”

This Feast of Pentecost holds the promise of yet another miracle, one that will bring peace from people like us who remember that we have been sent into the wild and wonderful variety of God’s creation with the gifts that the Spirit within us brings. To do that will require that we broaden our outlook, question those dogmatic assumptions we use to protect ourselves and ask the Spirit for guidance. Pentecost is not a date on the calendar. 

Every day is Pentecost because we have been stunned by grace and God’s mercy. We have been made new, brought to life, and have nothing to fear. 

Acts of the Apostles 1: 1-11 + Psalm 47 + Ephesians 1: 17-23 + Matthew 28: 16-20

May 21, 2023 at Saint William Church in Naples, Florida

There is danger with this Gospel. It is the danger of thinking that this is about something that happened in the past and something about the apostles. That is wrong, and getting it wrong has consequences for the Church and its apostolic members.  This feast and the event we commemorate tells us that we, the Church, must be a community of mission. We have a mission in this life, all of us, and the mission is not to play cards, golf, travel, or sit in the sun. For that matter, the mission of the Church is not to build big lovely buildings unless those are tools for accomplishing the mission we have been given. We are to go, baptize, teach, and remember.

The first step of this mission is the going. Without that, nothing else happens. Yet, that “going” is in a state of denial in our western world. We do not seem to have the heart to seek converts with anything like the vigor of the past. Many do not want to hear what the Lord asks or the message of the Church anymore. Perhaps that is because the Church, at least in the west is too preoccupied with internal problems, often of its own making. The same thing can be said of us individually. Being preoccupied with our own problems keeps us from going. Until we go, there is no baptism, no one to teach, and nothing to remember.

In this country, we hardly notice that the Church is exploding by leaps and bounds in India, Africa, South American, and southeast Asia. Why do you think there are so many missionary priests coming here from those places? Because they have them to spare and they are willing to go. I did some research as I began to think about this after sitting with this Gospel. The greatest number of Jesuits in this world now live and work in India! Every community of religious women is growing by leaps and bounds all through Asia. Seminaries in Vietnam are full. They are so full that the Communist Government restricts the numbers, and many young men are willing to wait their turn.

It’s not that there is something wrong with the comforts we enjoy or some sophistication, but these do not satisfy the spiritual hunger of the human heart. Pleasure is everywhere, but joy is missing. Inner peace is absent, and without it there are wars and violence. The expectation of a joyful future beyond the grave is missing. And so, we drug ourselves on the NFL, health clubs, the TV or computer screen. Meanwhile, complacency sets in all around us with the attitude that someone should do something. Churches close and parishes are consolidated while our young people drift away looking for something to do, something to be, something to remember.

Those first apostles had to get out of their routine, their comfort zone, their own neighborhood. They had to go to people who did not think and talk like they did. They had to take the risk of being laughed at, called names, and even suffer physical harm. They taught about Jesus not just by words, but more convincingly by their actions, gentleness, charity, and joy. They remembered the promise that they would never be alone, so they never left anyone who was lonely.

This day we call “The Ascension” is really not about Jesus returning to the Father nearly as much as it is about the Spirit of Jesus entering into us and about what he asks us to do so that he may truly remain with us always. When we feed the hungry he is with us. When we visit the lonely he is with us. When we give someone thirsty a drink he is with us. When we forgive he is with us. When we welcome the stranger or a sinner, he is with us. When those things happen because we do them, all will know that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Acts of the Apostles 8: 5-8, 14-17 + Psalm 66 + 1 Peter 3: 15-18 + John 14: 15-21

May 14, 2023 at St William Church in Naples, FL

We are still at the table of the Last Supper with these verses of John’s Gospel, and Jesus is explaining that soon his followers will not know him in the flesh as they had. A hard and painful transition lies ahead. They don’t want to let go of what they have, much less face what is coming. He promises he will not leave them as orphans. Like children whose parents are taken away forever, they would question their identity and how they would survive without him. Yet, the promise is made, a promise that leads them to experience that while he will not be with them, he will dwell within them. 

With that promise, we are being teased by John’s Gospel today, teased and drawn into a deep and profound mystery. On the surface, the words sound almost like a riddle as he says: “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” There is something profoundly personal about this that challenges any idea of a god that is remote, distant, foreign, or frightening. A transcendent God becomes a personal God. 

There is something intimate here, and the only way we can begin to understand and articulate this intimacy is through the experience of real, true, human love. If we take the experience of being loved and of loving in return, we are at the threshold of realizing this promise that the God who is in Jesus Christ will also be found within us. This is way more than affection. It is a relationship that changes our identity, a relationship that changes how we think, feel, and look at all creation and at one another. Like the true and sacramental love of a husband and wife, of parents for their children, there is nothing that can separate them, not even death. That loved one is deep within us present in all our waking hours bringing peace and the blessed assurance that we are acceptable and we are loved unconditionally.

That love is the promise made to us all as Jesus shared that final meal with his disciples. That love is why we keep the commandments, not because we fear punishment, not because we think it will get us points or earn our place in the presence of God, but because we love God and fulfilling the will of God is all we want to do. To whatever extent we have conformed ourselves to Jesus Christ, to whatever extent we have shaped our lives to be like his, we shall share his experience of union with the Father through union with him. This is more than saying that God is the source of all life or that God is first in our life. This is to believe that to love all others is to love our creator. This is what it means to be in Christ, because Christ loved everyone, and in so doing, he showed us how to love God and draw us deeply into everlasting divine life. So, no one is alone if we are there for them. We are never alone as long as we come again and again to this table and confirm this covenant of love and service God has made with us.

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

May 7, 2023

This homily was not delivered during the Liturgy as I am at the Maronite Parish in Tequesta, FL

In John’s Gospel the final night of Jesus’ life is five chapters in length. We pick up today verses from near the end. As with Moses, Joshua, David, and Tobit, the leader gathers his family and closest friends to bid them farewell and offer insight into the future giving some final instructions. We must sense that intimate moment in these verses today. Jesus is about to leave. He gives us some final words of encouragement and consolation: Be faithful to God’s Word and Law, Remember and live what I have taught you. Better days are coming.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, he says to those around him. Yet, they are troubled, and so are we troubled about so many things that seem so wrong, so difficult, so contradictory. In these days, the talking heads on television and elected officials are all trying to frighten us and scare us into accepting their ideologies promising things they can never deliver. The gentle comforting words of Jesus are nearly lost in the noise, threats, and fears some think will motivate us to believe their lies and self-serving dreams for the future.

For those of us who gather around and listen to the one leader who speaks the truth to us, there is hope and peace in the midst of all this noise that could frighten and confuse the best of us. The disciples are confused and very frightened, and like them we can hear the Word of God and trust what we hear.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke there is always great concern over the identity of Jesus. They are always asking, “Who is this?” In John’s Gospel the question is not “who” but “where.” “Where are staying? Where are you going? Where are you from” asks Pilate near the end. Even on Easter, Mary wants to “where they have taken him.”  What John reveals to us is that “where” is not a place or location. It is an inner communion that rests on belief in God and in Jesus Christ. What Jesus offers us and desires for us is that same relationship with God that he enjoys. It is that union with “The Father” that keeps him calm, focused, and faithful even when everything around him is falling apart and everyone around him is running for cover.This is not an easy thing to grasp, let alone begin to follow. Yet, we do know the way into the untroubled heart of God because Jesus is the way. While some continue to shout their frightening ideologies that polarize us and lead us to deaminize anyone different from us, a quiet voice can still be heard calling us to follow, to find in our faith the way to peace and justice that is found only where God dwells in the hearts of God’s people. Where there is mercy, there is God. Where there is justice, there is the Just One. Where there is forgiveness we shall find the forgiver, because, “the one who believes in me will do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.”