All posts for the month January, 2024

 St William Catholic Church in Naples, Fl Saturday 4:30pm

Deuteronomy 18: 15-20 + Psalm 95 + 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35 + Mark 1: 21-28

It was a normal Sabbath day, and the folks there in Capernaum went, as always, to the Synagogue to hear a rabbi teach. All of a sudden, right in the middle of the rabbi’s teaching there was a terrible disturbance as someone began to shout at the young rabbi calling him names. You might imagine what that could be like if it were to happen right here! I can imagine it because it happened to me years ago when a man with some mental problems walked in during Sunday Mass shouting as he walked down the aisle toward me. Not realizing for a moment that I was quoting Jesus, I shouted back at him: “Be quiet and sit down.” He didn’t, but two policemen in the congregation jumped up and removed the man, but not without a struggle. Mark tells us that the people in that synagogue were “amazed.” I can tell you, I was more than “amazed.” Mark does not tell us if Jesus continued his teaching, but I can tell you I did not. I was not presiding, only preaching at that Mass. So, I walked back to the priest who was presiding and said: “You may continue. I’m going home.” 

Amazement is what Mark leaves us with. It’s a kind of wonder or surprise. Those people did not have a clue about the identity of Jesus. It’s only the first chapter, and it takes all sixteen chapters to reveal his identity, and even then, as the Gospel ends, no one is quite sure except a Roman Centurion, an unlikely witness. What amazed those people was a new kind of authority, and they seemed to have liked it. People of authority at that time bossed people around and told them what to do. That was not what they experience in Jesus. Authority as exercised by Jesus was service and care. Rather than tell people what to do, he showed people what to do. We should remember that the word “Authority” comes from the root word: “Author.” The Authority of Jesus revealed the “Author” the Father – the God in a new and most welcome way that left the people amazed and astonished.Those people never expected anything like this, and they had no other way to respond. Some were frightened and some were threatened. But, those who followed him suddenly had new hope and some excitement about the future. It could be so for us. With authorities ready and anxious to serve and care rather than enforce rules and order people around, our own future might be a great deal more promising and peaceful, and the reality of God’s presence, providence, and care might give us all some inner peace, making our church more attractive to others leaving us anxious for more to come as it did those people in Capernaum.

7:30 am Sunday at Saint Elizabeth Seton Church in Naples, Fl

January 21, 2024 at St. Peter and St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Churches in Naples, FL

Jonah 3: 1-5, 10 + Psalm 25 + 1 Corinthians + Mark 1: 14-20

I am not sure where it comes from, perhaps it was our parents or our educational system, but most of us to some degree are what our culture calls, “Control Freaks.” I know some people whose lives are totally directed by their plans, their calendars, and the clock. While they seem to be all neat and orderly, my opinion is that they are dull and not a lot of fun to be around. If anything happens unexpectedly that throws their plans off, they get angry and can’t figure out what to do next. This is not to suggest that a little scheduling and planning is useless, but letting our plans completely take over our lives with a fixation over doing what we think needs to be done might very well keep us from being attentive to God’s work, God’s plan, and God’s invitation to share in that plan.

Imagine what it might have been like if those four, Peter, Andrew, James and John, had been so busy and so focused on their fishing that they just let Jesus walk on by. We would never know their names, nor the church they built that covers the earth. I think Mark tells us about this so that we can see what it takes to be a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ. We have to be able to risk something unknown, make a change, even start up a new relationship. Simply put, we can’t fool ourselves into thinking or believing that we’re in control of everything and that our plans are the right plans. The big risk is that while we work at whatever we do all day, we lose sight of the one purpose for which we were made.

When I think about those apostles Jesus called to himself, it seems to me that they were not exactly the best this world had to offer. It would seem that the best and the perfect are not what Jesus looks for. Most of the time, the best and the perfect have spent their lives and all their talents making themselves look good and be successful. That doesn’t leave God much to work with. As it turns out, those four and their companions were not so perfectly suited for what was to come, but they went anyway. They probably signed up thinking they would be headed for glory, power, respect, and admiration. Anything would be better than fishing all night and mending the nets all day. What they got was a huge disappointment. Instead of going for the glory of a palace, they got the cross. After that, they re-grouped in some upper room, and finally, with the help of the Holy Spirit figured out something new discovering why they were made in the first place. It was not to mend nets and catch fish.

We are so like those fishermen and those other ordinary people who join them along the way. We misunderstand things, we betray, and sometimes desert this church and the relationship we have here in Christ. But here we are week after week re-grouping in this room counting on the Holy Spirit to keep us open to the new life to which we have been called.

God has called us to be a little more than we may have thought we were before we really listened to God’s Word. God called those men to do and be a little more than just catch a few fish to feed their families. God has not stopped calling. If you think you have everything under control and want to keep it that way, you may very will miss out on real life telling yourself that you have “the good” life which will end someday. We cannot, for all our planning foresee the future, no matter how furiously we squint. We never know all that we are getting into. Although that may appear to be a regretful limitation, it often proves to be the way to find a hope larger than our limited and puny imaginations. It all  just takes an ability and a willingness to think or try something new.

St William Catholic Church Saturday 2:45 pm

January 14, 2024 at St Agnes & St William Catholic Churches in Naples, FL

1 Samuel 3: 3-10, 19 + Psalm 40, + 1 Corinthians 6: 13-15 + John 1: 35-42

After hearing Luke and Matthew tell us about Shepherds and Magi, we pick up John’s Gospel today. For those two writers, it is place and family lineage that establishes the identity of Jesus. In this Gospel, it is John the Baptist. There is nothing here about the birth of Christ. What happens before the Baptism of Jesus is of no interest to John. This Gospel is about signs, and the first one will take place at Cana in Chapter Two. In John’s Gospel, the Baptist begins to fade away as Jesus begins to attract some of John’s disciples. Into the scene now steps a man named, Andrew.

I find Andrew to be one of the most fascinating characters in the New Testament. He is always willing to play second fiddle to Peter. He cannot keep the Good News to himself, taking delight in introducing people to Jesus. He is only mentioned three times in the New Testament. One time he brings that boy with five loaves and two fish to Jesus. Another time he and Philip bring to Jesus some Greeks who are asking questions. The third time is today’s reading when he goes to find his brother Simon to meet Jesus. 

That meeting must have been something because John tells us that Jesus looked at Simon. John says the same thing much later when Jesus is on trial and Peter has just denied knowing Jesus for the third time. John tells us that Jesus turned and looked at Peter. I am sure it was the same look of love that saw what was on the inside of Simon, not just what was on the surface. Jesus could see what Simon could become, and I think that’s the way it is when God looks at any of us. God sees not only what we are, but what we can become. 

Today, we hear the very first words Jesus speaks in John’s Gospel. “What are you looking for?” This is not a remark from an annoyed pedestrian suddenly aware that he is being followed. This is the Word of God addressed to every one of us who wants to take Jesus Christ seriously. What are you looking for in this brief life? 

They ask, “Where are you staying?” We might at first think they are asking for his place of residence, but the word translated into “Staying” really means something more like “Where are you rooted?” Today we might say, “Where are you coming from?” With that, there comes an invitation to “Come and See.” This is an invitation to do more than look around. It is an invitation to see what life is really all about, to see what God sees, to see what God desires and has planned. It can also mean to see what God sees when God looks at us and at those around us. It’s about what we can become not just what we are and certainly not what we have been. Just as with Andrew and Simon Peter, what we can become happens because of a relationship.

What is unfolding in this first chapter of John’s Gospel is the mystery and the wonder of a relationship. I think Andrew was looking for a friend and it looks as though he found one because John tells us that he stayed with him that day. It’s time together that creates friendships, and that truth applies to our relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no substitute in friendship for time spent together.

Here we are today, spending time together with the one who looks at us and sees what we can become inviting us and welcoming us into a relationship that will ultimately answer the question, “What are you looking for?”

9:00am Sunday at St Agnes Church in Naples, FL

January 7, 2024 at Saint William And Saint Agnes Churches in Naples, FL

Isaiah 60: 1-6 + Psalm 72, + Ephesians 3: 2-3, 5-8 + Matthew 2: 1-12

We turn to Matthew’s Gospel today, and the whole of this Gospel is structured to illuminate the final command of Jesus and his final promise. “Go out to all the world and spread the Good News. Behold, I am with you until the end of the age.” Those who study Matthew’s Gospel know that he is not writing a history. The stories he tells are very simple and stark without a lot of details. He shows more interest in the star than in Mary and Joseph. Perhaps because a star is a light for all the whole world to see. Joseph is the chief human actor in the nativity story. The birth itself is mentioned only in passing. And with that, Matthew moves on to his vision of a universal all-embracing Kingdom of God.

It’s as though Matthew is writing a screen play, and so today we are still in Act One, but now at scene two. Scene One has two characters: Joseph and Mary. Scene Two as these foreigners and Herod. These visitors are sometimes called “wise.” They stand in stark contrast to Herod who lacks far more than wisdom. It would be hard to count his deficiencies, but courage and openness would be among them. It never ceases to amaze me every time I read this Gospel that Herod and his court did nothing even after his scholars told him what was happening. I don’t know about you, but when I think about this, it sounds like our days and the information we have about climate change. We know about it, but nothing much happens for the same reason.

Herod’s problem was simply that he was too comfortable, self-assured, and too confident in his own power to allow something new, a change, or even be aware of a power greater than his own. In contrast to these strangers we could call “seekers” he sought nothing and therefore he knew nothing.  A theologian described people open to revelation this way: “The person who seeks is the person who knows.”

Herod knew nothing, and content to know nothing, he missed the revelation of Divine Presence and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Whereas these strangers were seekers, and because of that, they knew, they saw, they experienced an Epiphany – a Divine Revelation of God’s presence.

It does no good to hear or read this story without beginning to wonder about ourselves and what we know and how we know it. Disciples of Jesus Christ, true believers are always seeking, looking for signs and wonders of God’s presence and work among us. We can learn from Herod’s ignorance that unless we seek, open ourselves to what was before unknown and perhaps unlikely, we will never know anything about God much less come to see God. The world around us, the world in which we live, is often hostile to change, and it leads to a lot fear of the unknown. That fear and that hostility to allow something new is dangerous and becomes an obstacle to knowledge and the discovery of truth. We must be seekers. It will lead us to wisdom and knowledge. Those who are seeking may sometimes end up in the wrong places, but like these strangers, they can leave people like Herod to their own darkness and ignorance. It is always possible to reorient ourselves. Our journey will not end on this earth, but we cannot do better than spend our lifetime seeking.